Ever since the human race discovered and named the condition known as cerebral palsy, the medical science world has been working feverishly to define either the cause or causes and of course a potential cure. Unfortunately, to date no cure has been identified and people who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy face a lifetime of challenges. While those challenges can be quite different for patients based on the different types of cerebral palsy that exist, the reason that there is no cure is that this condition is always the result of damage to the brain. Given our current scientific capabilities, when brain tissue is damaged there is little that can be done.
However, recent years have produced some interesting and perhaps exciting progress with regards to research related to the fight against cerebral palsy, and one of those exciting steps involved the use of stem cells in rats in a study a few years ago. That study showed that stem cells attacked damaged brain cells and tended to help repair them, and the rats with brain damage showed stunning improvements in the weeks after having stem cell treatments done. The logical progression from that point was to try this approach on humans.
It seems that this next step has been taken, as doctors in Germany have recently released news that they have used stem cell treatment with cells drawn from umbilical cord blood on a little boy who had been suffering terribly. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after he suffered a heart attack in 2008 that left him with severe brain damage. The situation also left him paralyzed and in a vegetative state that doctors and his parents feared would never be reversed.
Given the desperation of the situation, the parents agreed to undergo an experimental procedure involving the stem cells from the cord blood. This procedure was done in January of 2009, and doctors tracked the little boy’s progress at predefined time intervals. Over the course of several weeks, the child improved at remarkable levels. He regained consciousness, he learned to speak in simple sentences and he learned to move again. Over the course of 3.5 years, the boy continued to add to those skills and he learned to walk with help. In short, a patient who was given less than a 10 percent chance for survival was thriving.
The story regarding this boy is being met with excitement by some and with caution from others. There is still strong dissent in the medical community about using cord blood for this purpose, and many feel that more results need to be measured before the quality of this approach can truly be defined. However, parents of children with cerebral palsy are generally looking for any signs of hope, and this could be one of them.
We have been serving families as New York medical malpractice lawyers for 41 years, and we have handled many cases where children suffered brain damage during birth because of a medical mistake that left them with cerebral palsy. The team at The Fitzgerald Law Firm hope that this case is one that proves to be the template for future successful treatments of children with this difficult condition.