A New Frontier in Pro-Life Stem-Cell Research


(via her-menutics) A team of researchers at Georgia’s health science university, the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), announced last week that they are conducting a clinical trial using stem cells from umbilical-cord blood as a treatment for cerebral palsy. The trial will build on a successful series of past tests using adult stem cells in regenerative medicine.

“Evidence up to this point has been purely anecdotal,” said James Carroll, chief of pediatric neurology at the MCG and principal investigator on the study. “While a variety of cord blood stem-cell therapies have been used successfully for more than 20 years, this study is breaking new ground in advancing therapies for brain injury.”

MCG’s is the first clinical trial using adult stem cells approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and comes on the heels of last month’s announcement of the first FDA-approved trial of embryonic stem-cell treatment. FDA approval generally means enough funding and prior research has accumulated to make a heavily regulated FDA review worthwhile.

While there’s not exactly a competition, scientifically speaking, between the two different approaches, the fact that the government now supports embryonic stem-cell research underscores the importance of ramping up research into other methods (like cord blood stem cells).

The study’s success means children ages 2 to 12 taking part in the trial will show improvement in neurological development and motor skills after three months. Due to previous, non-clinical trials, researchers expect that the results will provide evidence that treatment with cord blood stem cells can improve quality of life. “For the purposes of this study, we’re not looking at stem cells as a possible cure, [but] rather whether stem cells can help change the course of these types of brain injuries in children,” Carroll said.

If successful, the trial, which uses cord blood pre-stored by the parents of children included in the trial, could increase the opportunities to create larger cord blood “banks” that would make matching cells available to more people. Because stem cells taken from the donor have the highest transplant success rate, many parents now choose to “bank” their newborn’s cord blood immediately after birth, should a need arise later in life. However, a wider and more available public “bank” of donated cord blood would theoretically aid advancing research into this type of treatment and help families who cannot afford to reserve their own “bank” space (or who are not informed of the option). There are very few cord blood banks in the United States.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages public cord-blood banking as “an invaluable service to those afflicted with leukemia and immune disorders.” It also notes that there are no risks to the mother or child (before or after birth) in donating cord blood, with its rich stem cell harvest: “[B]ecause the cord blood is collected after the baby is born and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, it does not affect the baby or the birth experience.”

Ongoing research into cord blood could produce revelations into the miraculous design God put in place for each child forming in her mother’s womb. In response to news about such worthwhile developments in the science, you and I might take time to consider whether making such a donation could be a simple, personal way to support scientific research that affirms God’s great gift of life.