Adult Stem Cell Therapies: Cord Blood stem cells being used to treat Cerebral Palsy in young children

By Dave Andrusko

Christopher, Drew and Maureen Kijek  (credit: Kathryn Larson/WWJ)

Christopher, Drew and Maureen Kijek
(credit: Kathryn Larson/WWJ)

One of the really fun qualities of writing for a living (especially in the virtually unlimited space provided by the Internet) is that you can easily and quickly update stories.

Last month we wrote about 11-year-old  Andrew Kijek, who has spastic cerebral palsy, and who was about to be infused with his own umbilical cord blood stem cells at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.   Umbilical cord blood stem cells are a rich source of potential help to treat various diseases. Fortunately, his parents were among the 5% that bank umbilical cord blood.

Mrs. Kijek calls the decision a “whisper from God.”

The hope is that at a minimum Andrew, who cannot crawl, walk, talk, hold his head upright, or control his muscles, will be more comfortable in his body after the stem cell implantation. But beyond that, as his mother Maureen told the Detroit CBS affiliate, “The cord blood could find the damaged parts of the brain from the cerebral palsy and regenerate. He could possibly regain function.”

Drew’s doctors “are expecting big things,” Mrs. Kijek said. On her own she had read some of the research studies and found that ”One of the little guys wasn’t able to talk.”

But at another point in the interview, she added more cautiously, “It’s like baby steps … we’ve got to cross the Grand Canyon, but we’ve got to do it a centimeter at a time.”

Dr. David Prentice, an expert in stem cell research, told NRL News Today that the results of other trials and results, including from ongoing trials at Duke University and Georgia Health Sciences University, have been very encouraging.

“It’s wonderful to see more doctors recognize the potential of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood for treating cerebral palsy in young children,” he said. “This is such a needed and simple application, and many young lives could be influenced by using these adult stem cells from cord blood.” Dr. Prentice cited the example of little Chloe Levine as well as others, such as Allison Thurman, 3, the first Michigan participant in the trial.

Mrs. Kijek told Lewis that the decision to bank the umbilical cord blood was prompted by family history. “There’s a history of breast cancer — my mom died from it when I was 18, so I felt compelled to do it,” Kijek told Shawn D. Lewis of the Detroit News.

When the Kijeks first heard about saving umbilical cord blood some eleven years ago, it sounded like science fiction. But now. “We’re hopeful that this study will help increase awareness to banking stem cells and funding too,” Kijek said.

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