Researchers in Germany reported the successful treatment of a two year old boy that had been left in a permanent vegetative state after going into cardiac arrest following cord blood stem cell therapy. The boy, “LB” went into cardiac arrest in November 2008, and was left paralysed with severe brain damage and in a vegetative state. Doctors told the parents that the boy’s chances of survival were minimal and that there has been no treatment for infantile cerebral palsy; if LB survived at all, he would have minimal signs of consciousness.

Out of desperation, the parents looked for new therapies and approached one group of researchers about the possibility of using their son’s cord blood that they had stored at birth to treat their son. The researchers agreed, and began cord blood stem cell therapy 9 weeks after the brain damage. Just two months after treatment with the cord blood containing stem cells, contrary to his doctors’ predictions, the boy’s symptoms began to improve. Within two months, the boy’s muscle spasticity decreased significantly. He was able to see, sit, smile, and to speak simple words. 40 months after treatment, the child was able to eat independently, walk with assistance, and form four-word sentences.

This is the first clinical report of cord blood stem cells in humans for treatment of pediatric cerebral palsy. However, this report was preceded by animal studies in which stem cells have been shown to migrate to damaged brain tissue and may lead to a new approach towards treatment of early stage cerebral palsy.