August 22, 2014

It is common knowledge that cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment therapies of more than 80 different diseases and conditions. The most widely known diseases treated with cord blood stem cell transfusions are leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and more. But one condition therapy that is emerging, but rarely discussed, is stiff person syndrome.

Stiff person syndrome is a rare neurologic disorder for which the cause is greatly unknown. The symptoms of stiff person syndrome include muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and sensitivity to certain sudden stimuli, such as loud noises or emotional stress, which can set off a wave of painful muscle spasms. In severe cases, the condition is excruciatingly painful and can lead to injuries from falls, a pronounced gait, and an abnormal, hunched posture. The condition occurs in fewer than one per million people, but for those afflicted, it is serious and, often times, debilitating.

Researchers at the University of Ottowa, seeking to improve the conditions of two women afflicted with the syndrome, tried a new treatment: autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation1. The treatment was based on a procedure used to treat multiple sclerosis. The women underwent an immunoablation, to prepare their immune systems for the transplant, followed by a stem cell transplant using their own stem cells.

Both women had improved symptoms shortly after receiving the transplants, and both were declared to be in remission following the treatments and have remained so for 2.5 and 4.5 years since. This type of stem cell therapy was the first of its kind in treating this syndrome and researchers are optimistic about utilizing it in future cases.

Autologous stem cell transplants from cord blood are common in the treatment of a number of other diseases as well, including leukemia and other forms of cancer. One of the greatest advantages of an autologous cord blood transplant it that it will always be a match to the person since it is their own blood, and the chances of graft vs. host disease are almost eliminated.

By banking your child’s cord blood, you are ensuring that he or she will always have his or her own stem cells available should they need them in the future.

1. Sanders S, Bredeson C, Pringle CE, et al. Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation for Stiff Person SyndromeTwo Cases From the Ottawa Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. JAMA Neurology. Published online August 25, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.129. Found online: http://goo.gl/nwXbdJ

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