Stem Cells can Treat Traumatic Brain Injury in Children

The brain has different complex functions that affect several parts of the body. A condition like a traumatic brain injury can severely impair important functions of the body. A traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain crashes against another object. It causes the brain to hit the internal wall of the skull or external objects may penetrate into the brain.  A person who has traumatic brain injury can have impairment of the motor skills and cognitive abilities. The person may have disabilities as a result. It can vary from loss of memory, coherent speech, and paralysis to mental health problems.

Because the brain is composed of billions of neurons, researchers look into targeting the brain cells (neurons) to treat people with traumatic brain injuries. Thus, stem cell research seems to show a promise. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to regenerate through cell division and can be used to form new organs.  In a study by a group of researchers from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), it concluded that transplanted bone marrow (learn on red and yellow bone marrow) cells can generate neurons in the brain.  Because of this, scientists explored more on this phenomenon to treat neuro-degenerative diseases.

Results from a clinical trial done by researchers from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) showed that harvesting bone marrow cells from a child with traumatic brain injury is safe. The clinical trial was done to 10 children and 7 of them showed improvement. In another Phase I clinical trial done by UTHealth, researchers are looking into using umbilical cord blood stem cells to treat traumatic brain injury in children. Children with umbilical cord blood stored in Cord Blood Registry who had traumatic brain injury within 6-18 months of the clinical trial were enrolled in the program. As of March 2011, the clinical trial is still in process and researchers are hopeful of its outcome.

Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 30.5% of injury-related deaths in the United States can be attributed to traumatic brain injury. From 2000-2006, almost half a million children (aged 0 to 14) were rushed to the emergency room for traumatic brain injury treatment. It included mild cases like head concussions and bumps. Thus, the NINDS is keen on improving current procedures and rehabilitating traumatic brain injury patients. The first 48 hours after the injury is a crucial time period to implement measures to prevent further damage to the brain. Currently, damage to the brain is reversible. Stem cell research seems promising and it gives hope for traumatic brain injury patients to recover.