Boy (3) on the verge of medical science history
JOHANNESBURG – IN what is poised to be another medical breakthrough, a three-year-old South African boy born with cerebral palsy has been accepted into a ground-breaking stem cell treatment programme at Duke University, the prestigious research university in the United States.
This is the second cord blood unit released by a private stem cell bank in South Africa for use in emerging stem cell therapies. Both were cryo-preserved and stored by Netcells Biosciences. Netcells Biosciences, based in Johannesburg, is Africa’s leading stem cell laboratory and cryogenic biobank.
The minor’s treatment scheduled for later in July involves an infusion of the child’s umbilical cord blood, which was banked by his parents at his birth.
Commenting on behalf of the family, who choose to remain anonymous, Dr Yvonne Holt, Medical Director of Netcells, explains that stem cells are the original building blocks of life because they can change into all the specialised cells that make up the human body.
“Umbilical cord blood is rich in ‘haematopoietic stem cells that become the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other immune cells that make up our blood,” she explains.
Various international trials have confirmed stem cells can regenerate or facilitate the repair of cells damaged by disease, genetics or injury.”
The team at Duke University – led by Professor Joanne Kurtzberg – has completed two clinical trials which demonstrated that the functional ability of children with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, balance and body movement, improved with a single intravenous infusion of a child’s own umbilical cord stem cells.
Holt says that regenerative therapies are an emerging but promising area of medical science.
“In less than a generation, research into the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells is producing powerful treatments for a range of diseases and genetic disorders,” she says.
These include over 80 blood disorders and immune system conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases where cord blood stem cells are used to regenerate bone marrow, and there are trials underway for treatments of autism, brain injury and Type 1 diabetes.
Prior to acceptance into the treatment programme at Duke University, both the child and his unit of blood had to undergo various assessments. The child’s unit of cord blood has already been transported to Duke University for the cell treatment programme.
Transporting the unit of blood into the United States was only possible because Netcells has independent international accreditation through the American Association of Blood Banks. This ensured that the unit complied with the federal regulations governing the transportation, processing and administering of blood in that country.
– CAJ News
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