Hydrocephalus is a condition that causes fluid retention in the brain. For this reason, this disease is also called “water on the brain”. In Hydrocephalus, the fluid of the brain leads to swelling, which is mainly caused due to a blockage of the ventricles in the brain, the area where the brain fluid drains. In other words, when a child’s brain tends to accumulate an abnormal degree of cerebrospinal fluid, it leads to immense pressure on the brain tissues. Eventually, it causes swelling of the head to accommodate the extra brain fluid.
Pediatric Hydrocephalus in children is the leading factor for pediatric brain surgeries in the U.S and the shocking part is, that the condition occurs in 1 in 500 kids. That makes Hydrocephalus as common as Downs syndrome. There is no cure for the condition, as of now apart from draining the excess fluids to relieve pressure by surgical procedures. If remained untreated for a long time, it may cause severe pain, mental disabilities, brain damage, and even death.
Grace, a baby girl was born with this condition. Her parents were alerted about the condition in their 20-week ultrasound session. However, doctors had assured them that the swelling can be treated with stem cells. Seeing a ray of hope, Grace’s parents decided to store and preserve the cord blood at the time of Grace’s birth. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, the Director of Duke’s Pediatric Bone Marrow and Transplant program led the case.
The FDA-approved study involved preserving the cord blood at a freezing temperature of -300F in a thermogenic liquid nitrogen freezer. About 3-5 oz cord blood was taken away from the freezer after 90 minutes. It was kept for the infusion. In the 3-5 oz of cord blood, about 20 progenitor cells, which was explained by Dr. Kurtzberg as, “has a tendency to differentiate into a specific type of cell, but is already more specific than a stem cell and is pushed to differentiate into its “target” cell.” “Science has yet to figure out how to separate these cells from the other millions of cells”, Kurtzberg added. The surgery took 5 to 7 minutes and it was a success.
Duke University researchers have taken many cases to treat Hydrocephalus. The main idea is to look into the regenerative impact on the brain blood vessels by using a child’s own cord blood stem cells, collected from the umbilical cord during birth. The study showed that the neural progenitor cells that perform a specific function can also repair any damaged tissue. The researchers are continuing their work involving autologous cord blood stem cells to compare the results with the patients, who never received any transplant.
Cord blood stem cells can treat more than 80 diseases. And the future looks impressive with so many clinical trials underway to unveil new areas to treat various diseases, conditions, and injuries. Hydrocephalus is one of them. With an array of studies in line, we can say that one-day cord blood stem cells will be the answer to Hydrocephalus or “water on the brain” as well.