A clinical trial into the use of stem cells harvested from umbilical cords to treat cerebral palsy was carried out a year ago, it was recently reported in the Sunday Times (7/11/10).

The trial was carried out by Dr Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University in North Carolina. The focus of the trial was to establish whether the stem cells harvested from the umbilical cord of a child, at birth, could help that child if they subsequently developed cerebral palsy by migrating to the brain to repair damage.

The report focused on the case of Sasha Brown who has cerebral palsy and who was injected with her own umbilical cord stem cells that had been stored since her birth. It was felt that there had been some improvement in her motor skills and possibly some improvement in her cognitive skills. However, as the article points out, Sasha had continued to receive therapies throughout the period in question and thus it will be important to establish whether her improvement can be attributed to the stem cell treatment or the therapies that she has received. A second phase to the trial is proceeding to try and eliminate any placebo effect. The results of this phase of the trial are awaited with interest.