New research is adding to evidence that children with cerebral palsy can see meaningful gains from infusions of stem cells from their own cord blood.

A study looking at 63 kids with various types of spastic cerebral palsy found that just one dose of stem cells led to better motor function.

“We are encouraged by the results of this study, which shows that appropriately dosed infusions of cord blood cells can help lessen symptoms in children with cerebral palsy,” said Joanne Kurtzberg, director of Duke University’s pediatric blood and marrow transplant program and a senior author of the study published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

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Children who received an infusion of 25 million stem cells per kilogram of their body weight exhibited greater gains than those who received a placebo and performed better than is typically expected of kids with similar age and diagnostic histories, the study found.

All of the children who took part in the research were between the ages of 1 and 6 and had their cord blood banked at birth. About half were treated with stem cells while the others received a placebo.

Researchers tried a variety of doses and evaluated the participants using magnetic resonance imaging and standardized measures to track their ability to crawl, roll and perform other motor functions.

While kids with cerebral palsy do typically see their skills improve over the course of a year — particularly when aided by occupational and physical therapy — those who received an optimal dose of the stem cells progressed more than expected, researchers said.

“We still have a lot to learn about this therapy so that it can be optimized and accessible to more children with cerebral palsy,” Kurtzberg said. “Now that we have identified a dosing threshold, we are planning additional studies testing the benefits of multiple doses of cells, as well as the use of donor cells for patients whose own cord blood was not banked.”

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