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Pregnancy is a beautiful journey that forms the base of an extraordinary bond between a mother and child. Well, keeping all those random mood swings aside, pregnant women are asked to go that extra mile when it comes to taking care of their health for a reason. Even the slightest negligence can lead to life-threatening complications for both the mother and the child during pregnancy. In a shocking revelation, reports from the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy revealed that approximately 33,000 Indians have cerebral palsy.
Around 13 out of 14 cases of this condition are either developed during pregnancy or within the first month post birth of the child. Globally, the incidence of cerebral palsy is 1 in every 500 live births.
Cerebral palsy (CP) comprises a group of disorders that impact an individual’s ability to move while maintaining balance and posture. It is the most common motor disability that occurs in children. The term ‘cerebral’ means relating to the brain, while ‘palsy’ indicates some problems or weakness relating to the muscles. The main cause of CP is usually an abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain.
As already discussed above briefly, cerebral palsy is generally caused by an abnormal development of the brain or due to damage to the developing brain. While this usually happens before the birth of a child, it can also occur at birth or during early infancy.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) that occurs before or during birth is termed as congenital CP. A majority of cerebral palsy (85–90 percent) is congenital in nature. Many factors can contribute to CP. Those during pregnancy include maternal infections like toxoplasmosis, rubella, measles, syphilis, zika virus; maternal complications like pre-eclampsia, seizures, hypothyroidism etc.; or exposure to toxins like mercury etc.
Those during labor include causes like protracted (prolonged labor), breech delivery, cord around the neck, low birth weight, twin/triple pregnancies etc. But in the majority of cases, the specific cause cannot be tracked.
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, early intervention can help manage the condition better and improve the lives of those who have the condition. Hence, it is important to initiate a treatment program at the earliest
After CP is diagnosed, a team of health professionals will help with the development of a treatment plan that works for the affected child and family to help the former reach his or her full potential. Although there is no proven cure for cerebral palsy yet, stem cell research holds promise and has a great potential for providing an effective cure for this condition.
An important fact that is to be noted here is that with some efforts to prevent head injuries in infants and immunization of the mother during pregnancy, CP can be prevented partly.
A study published by Stem Cells Translational Medicine in 2017 on the effects of umbilical cord infusion on young children with cerebral palsy, concluded that there was a positive correlation between the infusion of autologous umbilical cord blood cells and improvement in brain connectivity and motor function. The team of researchers for this study plans on conducting further studies to understand the benefits of multiple doses of cord blood cells, as well as blood cells from donors.
Cord blood stem cells are emerging as a potential cure for cerebral palsy. A study published in Cell Transplantation in May 2019 concluded that cord blood holds great therapeutic potential for treating Cerebral Palsy. Another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in Wiley Stem Cells observed that treatment with umbilical cord blood improved cognitive and motor dysfunction in children with CP.
Multiple other studies using umbilical cord blood for treating CP though are still in the trial phase; has revealed a promising future when it comes to cerebral palsy treatment. While only time will tell what the future beholds, for now cord blood-derived stem cells seem to hold great promise in the treatment of cerebral palsy.