What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that occurs due to perinatal brain injury which affects the cerebral cortex and the basal ganglia mostly, thereby causing impairment to the muscles.
Other factors that can cause cerebral palsy are
- Premature delivery
- Infection in the uterus
- Nutrient deficiency during the development stage
- Lack of oxygen during birth, and
- Genetic irregularity.
Due to these factors, brain cells are not able to promote proper growth.
Neurons die or do not mature appropriately and the white matter tract connecting the motor regions of the brain to the spinal cord become severely damaged.
So, cerebral palsy leads to neuro-motor deficits, visual and cognitive impairments.
The cerebral palsy latest news now is the stem cell therapy for treating CP.
There are several research studies going on in the field of stem cell transplantation for cerebral palsy patients for bettering their condition to a great extent.
There are already clinical trials which have revived the hope in reversing cerebral palsy, and some problems which this therapy may bring along are also being worked on.
What is stem cell treatment?
Stem cell transplantation is a regenerative therapy, which can help replace damaged cells and support remaining neurons.
There are different types of stem cells with unique characteristics.
The cell can be used to target the damaged environment and can be used to promote recovery.
Basically, treatment modalities for cerebral palsy encompasses physical therapy, occupational therapy and medicine prescription.
The stem cell therapy is the newest treatment for cerebral palsy and it has been used successfully in treating cancer, arthritis, stroke, diabetes and Parkinson’s diseases.
Researchers in India, US and UK have used stem cell transplantation to marginally improve brain condition.
The research is being done using animal models of cerebral palsy and then injecting the stem cells into the brain.
The focus is currently to use stem cells to treat chronic injury cases. This will help develop stem cell therapies that will be effective even a long time after the brain injury takes place.
Problems of stem cell treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Some vital issues noted by stem cell researchers are the improvement of cell survival in the brain after transplantation
Also, reducing the risk of a tumor, and making sure the transplanted cells integrate with the existing neural pathways.
These challenges are trials that have helped them gaining the knowledge about how stem cells function and incorporate into the damaged nervous system.
This is made possible with the roles of endogenous neural progenitor cells (NPCs) which are found within the brain after a brain injury occurs.
Many clinical trials are going on in US, UK, India and around the globe.
Some are using bone marrow in a combination with other types of cells.
Others are using umbilical cord blood containing different types of cells.
Some of these trials have passed the initial phases which have helped strengthened the fact that stem cells are effective for cerebral palsy treatment.
While stem cell therapy has been used successfully in treating mild cerebral palsy, there are concerns on some side effects of this therapy.
The stem cells harvested and injected into the patient, which now become part of the immune system are much likely to attack the host’s tissues and cells.
In such, the patient develops graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD).
Other negative effects likely to be experienced are nausea, vomiting, weakness after the transplantation.
Regulatory Issues regarding Stem cell treatment
There have been lots of progress in the cerebral palsy treatment using stem cell treatment but there are more issues to address to make it available for everyone.
The stem cells used are prepared in Petri dishes in the laboratory and in such a small amount can only be used to treat few patients.
But with the passage of time, there will be a requirement to producing these cells in a large volume.
The low volume is one of the contributing factors to the high cost of getting stem cell therapy treatment for CP children, making this therapy not available for most parents.
Therefore, Bioreactors are tools that should be considered to addressing this challenge, but the protocols for cell production still needs to be re-evaluated and the efficiency of this method of production needs to be assessed.
So, more research needs to be done before desired stem cells can be produced in large quantities.
Regulatory agencies like the FDA and Health Canada are yet to finalize a standardized guideline for the production and the use of stem cells.
This is because individual regulations are required for each unique cell type.
Also, these cells have different biological therapeutic effects as compared to conventional drugs.
Since cells are living entities, effects of transplants in the human body can not be determined correctly.
So, the establishment of these guidelines and standardization of the manufacturing process to reduce variability among the stem cells during production is the need of the hour.
Some of the challenges can be addressed by understanding more accurately how the stem cells work.
Hence, scientists, industry partners, regulatory agencies, and patient advocates need to work together to advance the stem cell treatment for Cerebral Palsy.