Clinical Trial to Test Stem Cells for Pediatric Brain Injuries

The technique could offer new hope, better results, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A study to examine stem cell therapy to treat children's brain injuries will begin next year at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital in Houston.

Researchers will assess the safety and potential of treating traumatic brain injuries in children with stem cells derived from the children's own bone marrow. This study is the first to test stem cell therapy for traumatic brain injury, the scientists said.

The phase I clinical trial of 10 patients, ages 5 to 14, will build on previous laboratory and animal research that indicated that bone marrow-derived stem cells can migrate to an injured area of the brain, develop into new neurons and support cells, and stimulate brain repair, the researchers said.

"This would be an absolutely novel treatment, the first ever with potential to repair a traumatically damaged brain," co-principal investigator Dr. James Baumgartner, associate professor of pediatric neurosurgery, said in a prepared statement.

The bone marrow stem cells will be processed and injected into the children within 48 hours of their injury. The children's brain function will be evaluated at one month and six months after the procedure to assess improvements.

Currently, there is no way to repair traumatic brain injury. Doctors can only try to prevent secondary damage by relieving pressure on the brain caused by the initial injury. Being able to provide even marginal repair could prove a major benefit for brain injury patients, the researchers said.

"It could be the difference between being able to recognize your loved ones and not being able to, or between doing things for yourself or having to rely on others. That would be a huge impact on families and on society," principal investigator Dr. Charles Cox, professor of pediatric surgery and trauma, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Neurology has more about brain injury.

SOURCE: University of Texas Medical School at Houston, news release, Dec. 20, 2005

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