Will Stem Cells Be The Leading Treatment For Cerebral Palsy?

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The biggest national Cerebral Palsy treatment effort with stem cells from umbilical cord blood has begun its trial run in march.

The project is a joint effort by Children’s Medical Center, The Royan Institute and the Iran Blood Transfusion organization(IBTO). In its first phase, it will provide treatment to over 120 children with Cerebral Palsy between the ages 5-13. The treatment was tested in September on some children with CP in some hospitals and the results were highly satisfactory.

Approximately four in every 1000 children in Iran have Cerebral Palsy while the rate in developed countries is 2 to 2.5 per 1000 live births.

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for the range of effects and damage to developing brains by various causes. It is connected with a range of symptoms which do include movement problems. The damages to the brain usually occur in the early development of the brain, either during pregnancy or during the period right after birth.

Symptoms include difficulties in walking, balance and motor control, swallowing, eating, speech or/and coordination of eye movements. Some people affected by Cerebral palsy also have some level of intellectual disability. But it is important to note that no two people with cerebral palsy are affected in exactl the same way.

The IBTO plans to expand the storage of umbilical-blood-based stem cells by 20,000 samples said Ali Akbar Pourfathollah, Head of the organization

“Around 75,000 samples have been stored in private banks and 5,000 in public banks, but the number will surpass 100,000 soon” he said

Umbilical-cord-blood is an extremely valuable source of hematopoietic Stem cells that can be used for the treatment of many diseases like leukemia. Hundreds of transplants have taken place with using stem cells from such blood, which is easy and risk free.

The use of stem cells reduces the overall risk of viral disease transmission and incidence of graft versus host disease. Using stem cells is also one of the best treatments for blood diseases as the method has a success rate of 70 percent worldwide.

“In the past Iranian year (which ended March 20), out of the 8,000 stem cell transplantations in the country, only 100 were from matched unrelated donors and the rest came from sibling (or related) donors.”

The storage of stem cells is also a valuable investment. Thus far over 20 cord blood banks have been opened across the country. The two types are private and public banks for stem cell storage. The latter does not charge a fee for storage but for the former, the cost of collection and testing is about 645 dollars with annual charge for storage of 33 dollars.

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