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Cerebral palsy stem cell trial begins

AUGUSTA, Ga., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are starting a clinical trial to determine whether stem cells from umbilical cord blood can help children with cerebral palsy.

Medical College of Georgia researchers said their study represents the first such U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trial. The study will include 40 children age 2-12 whose parents have stored cord blood at the Cord Blood Registry in Tucson, Ariz.

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The principal investigator of the trial, Dr. James Carroll, a professor at the college's school of medicine, said umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, which can divide and morph into different types of cells throughout the body. Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury or lack of oxygen in the brain.

Animal studies indicate that infused stem cells help injured brain cells recover and replace brain cells that have died, Carroll said.

While no controlled clinical trials have been conducted to date, Carroll said previous studies have shown marked improvement in children with cerebral palsy about three months after an initial infusion of cord blood.

"Evidence up to this point has been purely anecdotal," he said. "While a variety of cord blood stem cell therapies have been used successfully for more than 20 years, this study is breaking new ground in advancing therapies for brain injury -- a condition for which there is currently no cure."

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