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What is happening with stem cells and brain injury?

What is happening with stem cells and brain injury?

Stem cell therapy is in its infancy when it comes to brain injury.  It is a very promising area of research, and the Brain Injury Association (BIA) supports increasing funding in this area. 

BIA gets regular inquiries about stem cell treatments that are available overseas. The therapies that are offered overseas are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and typically are not covered by any insurance. The cost for these treatments can be in the tens of thousands of dollars and there are no guarantees for successful remediation of brain injury as a result of stem cell therapy at the present time.

It is important to note that there are different types and different sources of stem cells. Most of the media coverage focuses on embryonic stem cells, which have strict limits on availability in the United States. 

The Brain Injury Association's Summer 2009 issue of THE Challenge! newsletter includes an overview of stem cells and the current understanding of how stem cells might be used to help recovery in brain injury. There is additional information about stem cells available through the National Institutes of Health.

Research into stem cells is just beginning in the United States.One area of research is the use of cord blood stem cells in treating neurological injury.  BIAA is a member of the Coalition for Regenerative Stem Cell Medicine. The Coalition website offers interesting information about research happening in this area. For example, a study completed at the University of Texas investigated the use of a child’s own stem cells (from bone marrow) for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. The results of the study showed that the approach was safe and its results lead to the ongoing development of a larger research study using cord blood stem cells to treat brain injury in children.

The Coalition has developed a fact sheet on cord blood therapies.

In January 2011, a Phase I clinical research trial will investigate using a child's own cord blood stem cells to treat traumatic brain injury.  Additional information is available through the press release, and the Cord Blood Registry.

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