When you ask Brodie how he got so strong, he has only one answer: “Zoey’s blood”. The umbilical cord blood of his little sister gave him a new life.
Brodie was 18 months old when he was diagnosed with left-sided hemiplegic cerebral palsy, which prevented him from controlling the ipsilateral side of his body. Cerebral palsy is a common condition, usually affecting 2 out of every 1,000 babies. Unfortunately, there is still no cure, but Professor Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University in North Carolina, has been conducting clinical trials with stem cells from umbilical cord blood to treat this dreaded disease for years – with excellent results. Since then, many centres around the world have dedicated themselves to researching the disease and the resulting therapies that will bring new hope to patients suffering from it in the future. This is the case of Brodie, who has regained the use of the left side of his body thanks to a transfusion of stem cells from his sister Zoey’s umbilical cord blood. Within weeks of the transfusion, Brodie’s parents, Brenda and Ben, noticed a marked improvement in Brodie’s condition. “After treatment with Zoey’s cord blood sample, Brodie began to move his left arm again.” Brodie’s mother has also noticed a marked improvement in his mental abilities.
It is thought that infusion of cord blood cells can improve the symptoms of cerebral palsy by reducing inflammation and swelling in the brain. According to Professor Graham Jenkin of Monash University, cerebral palsy is ultimately an inflammatory disease. The brain becomes inflamed for a variety of reasons, leading to cerebral palsy, and these cells have been shown in preclinical studies to help eliminate the inflammation. The clinical trial Brodie took part in was a phase 1 study to investigate the safety of cord blood infusions for cerebral palsy.
Although the results are encouraging, it has yet to be proven that Brodie’s improvements are a direct result of cord blood treatment. Another phase 2 clinical trial is planned in Australia, which will include a larger group of participants to measure efficacy and further evaluate the safety of sibling cord blood therapy. Meanwhile, Prof Jenkin and his colleagues at Monash Health are conducting the ACTRN12619001637134 clinical trial, the world’s first study to prevent cerebral palsy by treating premature babies born before 28 weeks gestation. Almost half of all children who develop cerebral palsy are born prematurely. To counteract this statistic, the new study hopes to reduce the severity of cerebral palsy by giving premature babies cells from their umbilical cord blood as soon as possible after birth