Monday, February 2, 2009

by David Prentice, PhD, William L. Saunders, JD, Jan Ledochowski, and Lukas Lucenic

Brain Injury
New nerve cells, produced naturally by adult neural stem cells present in the brain, appear to be essential for learning and memory. The old idea that brain cells are not renewed was debunked in the 1990's, when researchers showed that the adult brain continues to make new neurons, a process termed
"neurogenesis," throughout life. Now, researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have shown in mice that new brain cells are necessary for learning and for memory. The new research, published in Nature Neuroscience, indicates that neural stem cells in the adult brain continue to produce new brain cells that are important for memory and learning.

The new study supports work published earlier this year showing that
new brain cells can affect learning and memory. Last year, research showed that transplanting adult neural stem cells into brain-injured mice could restore some memory. In March 2008, another study showed that injecting human umbilical cord blood stem cells into the brains of aging animals boosted neurogenesis. Another recent study also suggested that stimulating specific molecules in the brain could reactivate adult neural stem cells. Exercise has also been shown to stimulate neurogenesis in the brain.[5]

An Auckland twin who was brain-damaged at birth has become the first New Zealander to undergo experimental treatment in the United States using her own umbilical cord blood. Three months ago, Maia Friedlander, 4, was locked in her own world. Despite six hours of therapy a day for three years, Maia-who was born six weeks premature-struggled to talk, walk properly, or even chew her food without choking. Her twin sister, Ariel, achieved all her developmental milestones about six months early, but Maia did not learn to crawl until she was three. Her father, Daniel, said: "Our lives revolved around her therapy regime but we could not see much improvement."

The breakthrough came in February, when they met American mother Mary Schneider, whose son, Ryan, was the first to undergo cord blood transfusion for his brain injury at Duke University , North Carolina . Five years later, he is developmentally normal. More than 50 other children with brain injuries have been treated through Duke's reinfusion program. In August, Maia and her mother, Jillian, traveled to the U.S., where she received a two-hour infusion of her own cord blood stored by her parents at birth. Within days her concentration and coordination improved. Maia now goes to kindergarten five days a week. "She's like a different child-talking, hugging us, playing . . . She's had a second chance at life and we can now have the family life we'd always dreamed of."

Doctors have used a revolutionary stem cell treatment to restore the power of speech for a stroke victim. Walter Bast also regained the use of his right arm after the operation to place a "teabag" of drug-producing adult stem cells in his brain. Speaking a week after the operation-the first of its kind in the world-he said: "I feel like a lucky guy." If further trials confirm the value of the treatment, it could be on the market in as little as five years, providing fresh hope for the 45,000 Britons each year who suffer a hemorrhagic stroke caused by the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain. Currently, the only treatment option is surgery, which has a variable success rate. Half will die within a month and just one in 20 patients will recover to the extent of Mr. Bast, a 49-year-old mechanic. British experts described the operation as "very promising."

The CellBeads treatment is the brainchild of scientists at the British medical technology firm Biocompatibles International, based in Farnham, Surrey , U.K. At its center is a teabag-like sachet filled with tiny capsules, each containing approximately a million stem cells. The stem cells, taken from bone marrow, have been genetically engineered to produce a drug that protects brain cells from dying. This allows the cells to rejuvenate and repair the damage done by the stroke. The stem cells are encapsulated in beads to hide them from the immune system and ensure they are not rejected by the body.

Cerebral Palsy
When Chloe Levine was 9-months-old, her parents noticed she could not hold her bottle with her right hand. That was not her only developmental setback. Chloe, of Pinetop , Arizona , was unable to raise both hands above her head and could not crawl. At 12 months, a CAT scan showed a portion of the left side of Chloe's brain had not developed and contained fluid. Chloe's parents, Ryan and Jenny Levine, took her to a neurologist who diagnosed the toddler with right-side hemiplegic cerebral palsy. "The cerebral palsy had only affected the right side of her body," Jenny Levine said. "The neurologist told us we were looking at 17-18 years of therapy." That was when the Levines heard about an experimental procedure at Duke University in North Carolina , where children with cerebral palsy were infused with their own cord blood stem cells in an effort to heal and repair damaged brain tissue.

The Levines remembered they had banked Chole's cord blood when she was born. "It was a miracle," Dr. Manny Alvarez said on FOX & Friends. "I congratulate you for banking her cord blood. Stem cells are a new field of medicine and they certainly can rejuvenate the tissue." Two months ago, Chloe, 2, received an infusion of her own stem cells and her progress is remarkable, said her father, Ryan. "Her therapist said she's made a 50 percent recovery," he said. "She can walk, run, and do sign language with her right hand."

Spinal Cord Injury
The Australian team at the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research, Griffith University , continues to produce exciting results. The latest report published in the journal Brain gives the results of a 3-year clinical trial, using olfactory ensheathing cells (specialized adult cells that surround nerves) from the patients' own noses, transplanted into the damaged spinal cord. The initial one year follow-up has shown no adverse effects from the transplant.

This was a highly controlled trial, with matched control and transplant patients, followed for 3 years. Patients were chosen who might be considered "chronic"-at least 2 years after their spinal cord injury-to control for any spontaneous recovery. The trial was designed to show the safety of the transplant. The transplant was safe by all measures, and one transplanted patient showed improvement over 3 segments in light touch and pin-prick sensitivity. The cells were shown to be quite safe, to take well in the patients, and to safely improve function.


  1. Hi, Andy. This is a really amazing blog you have here, it's going to benefit a lot of people. My Max has a similar history to your son—lack of oxygen at birth, seizures, microcephaly, spastic four-quad CP. He is, however, doing SO much better than the doctors said he would. We did HBOT, craniosacral and MEDEK when he was younger (he's now 6).

    I hope your son continues to make good progress. Putting you on my blogroll.

  2. Hi Ellen. We've done HBOT and plan to do another 40 dives soon. We also continue to see a D.O. for cranial manipulation. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi Andy. I was really excited to come across your blog because my son also suffered from a lack of oxygen, has developmental delays, cerebral palsy (not really specified which one), CVI, and microcephaly (although they never used the term secondary and they don't seem concerned about it since it's growing). He also had seizures at birth.
    I'm amazed at all the alternate therapies out there, that were really never discussed by any professionals that we see. My son is now 19 months and I'm only 23, so it seems like I missed a lot of questions I should have asked, only to have to wait months before I can ask them.
    Our neuro told us the damage to his brain was so severe, he would never have matched his MRI to my son, because he's doing so well. That was when he was 1. It feels like we're kind of at a stand still now and I'm trying to push all of our resources to figure something out, but I'm still not sure of what I should be asking. It's frustrating that there seems to be a plethora of information out there but little guidance!
    Anyway, I was just wondering if you could email me, and maybe give me some suggestions. I've already learned a ton from your site and plan on looking into HBOT, though I'm not sure we'll be able to afford it soon (hopefully the effectiveness doesn't decrease as the patient gets older?)
    my email is
    I look forward to reading about your sons progress and the therapies involved

  4. Hi Miss Burb. I hope you find my blog helpful! The main reason I created it is to share what I've learned about therapies for brain injury (CP) and discuss their effectiveness. I'm emailing you offline.

  5. Hello. My name is Dustin and I have mild CP. I hate that I can't print quality letters in my hand writting and I can't train my muscles to be normal. I am not in a wheel chair. Is there anything that can help me? Please email me