Umbilical Stem Cells Wake Up PVS Child

By Wesley J. Smith

EEG recording (L.B.) before transplantation. The patient (L.B.) is in a persistent vegetative state 9 weeks after the insult before transplantation of cord blood cells. Note the dilated, unresponsive pupils in spite of bright light from the ceiling. (Credit: A. Jensen, E. Hamelmann. First Autologous Cell Therapy of Cerebral Palsy Caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Brain Damage in a Child after Cardiac Arrest—Individual Treatment with Cord Blood. Case Reports in Transplantation, 2013; 2013: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2013/951827)

EEG recording (L.B.) before transplantation. The patient (L.B.) is in a persistent vegetative state 9 weeks after the insult before transplantation of cord blood cells. Note the dilated, unresponsive pupils in spite of bright light from the ceiling. (Credit: A. Jensen, E. Hamelmann. First Autologous Cell Therapy of Cerebral Palsy Caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Brain Damage in a Child after Cardiac Arrest—Individual Treatment with Cord Blood. Case Reports in Transplantation, 2013; 2013: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2013/951827)

Wow. A child with cerebral palsy who suffered a cardiac arrest and became–they thought–permanently unconscious, appears to have been successfully treated with his own stored umbilical cord blood stem cells. From the ScienceDaily story:

“Bochum’s medics have succeeded in treating cerebral palsy with autologous cord blood. Following a cardiac arrest with severe brain damage, a 2.5 year old boy had been in a persistent vegetative state — with minimal chances of survival. Just two months after treatment with the cord blood containing stem cells, the symptoms improved significantly; over the following months, the child learned to speak simple sentences and to move.”

We should be careful not to assume this means a cure, but look at this progress!

“After the cord blood therapy, the patient, however, recovered relatively quickly. Within two months, the spasticity decreased significantly. He was able to see, sit, smile, and to speak simple words again. Forty months after treatment, the child was able to eat independently, walk with assistance, and form four-word sentences. ‘Of course, on the basis of these results, we cannot clearly say what the cause of the recovery is,’ Jensen says. ‘It is, however, very difficult to explain these remarkable effects by purely symptomatic treatment during active rehabilitation.’”

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This heartening story raises several issues, among which are: First, ethical stem cell research offers tremendous hope. Second, unconscious child patients are sometimes dehydrated to death based on the belief they can never recover. If that doesn’t give you pause…

Editor’s note. This appeared on Wesley’s blog.