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Cord blood could protect newborns from cerebral palsy

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Researchers are working on a promising technique that could prevent the development of cerebral palsy in newborns.

It has been found that giving animals a one-off dose of their own cord blood stem cells 12 hours after being starved of oxygen restored the biochemistry in the brain to normal levels over the next three days, and reduced or prevented cerebral palsy from developing.

Melbourne researchers believe this technique could also be applied to human newborns and are conducting research to determine what type of cord blood and how much should be given to prevent cerebral palsy.

Lead researcher and head of the neuroprotection research group at the Ritchie Centre, Dr Suzanne Miller, said pre-term babies and those who suffered a lack of oxygen around birth were most at risk of developing cerebral palsy, but said it was believed stem cells could work by repairing injury in the brain.

“There are lots of studies that say if you can tackle the brain injury early, then we’ll be much more likely to get good outcomes than trying to repair it once it has taken place,” Dr Miller told the Herald Sun.

“Depending on what those stem cell types are, we think, in part, they’re acting as anti-inflammatory cells and, in part, they’re probably releasing neuro-trophic factors that will do repair within the brain.”

Kirsty Waterford