At the Tucson Medical Center in Arizona children who are born high risk for developing problems such as cerebral palsy are offered free storage of their umbilical cord blood just in case it is needed at some later date. This was the case for Nathan Lennex, who was born seriously premature.
“When I was pregnant it was a text book pregnancy, everything was normal and then my water broke at 33 weeks, he was going to be a preemie and we couldn’t stop it,” said Cherie Lennex, Nathan’s mother.
After Nathan’s birth Cherie was asked if she would like to participate in the Newborn Possibilities Program offered by the hospital. This program gave Cherie the option of storing Nathan’s cord blood for free for up to five years, just in case at some point down the road the blood could be helpful to Nathan in some way. Cherie agreed and the blood was housed at the Cord Blood Registry laboratory.
“We actually collected and processed over 1,000 cord blood samples from children that were born at TMC, that were predetermined to be high risk pregnancies and therefore may exhibit some neurological disorder in the future,” said Kristen Swingle from the Cord Blood Registry.
One year later Nathan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Nathan’s doctors recommended to Cherie that he take part in a clinical trial being conducted at the Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, which is studying whether stem cells found in umbilical cord blood is efficacious as a treatment for cerebral palsy. Luckily, because of the CBR Nathan was able to participate since his cord blood was available.
The FDA regulated study includes 40 patients with CP. Half of the subjects have or will receive the stem cells harvested from the cord blood, while the other half will receive a placebo. Swingle explained, “It’s
very similar to getting an IV drip. The stem cells are infused and it’s followed up with a saline drip which has a minimal impact on the child.”
Last August Nathan received his second infusion, and according to his mother, there has been a significant change in his motor skills.
“For the first 2 years of his life his progression had gotten him to just barely standing and then from August to December he is walking while holding your hand. There has to be something else other than
natural progression that is going on,” Cherie, Nathan’s mom said.