Stem cells investigated with help of innovative technology

Minsk’s City Centre for Medical Rehabilitation of Children Suffering from Psycho-Neurological Problems introduced a new method: ICP treatment with stem cells. Happily, the first positive result is registered

Minsk’s City Centre for Medical Rehabilitation of Children Suffering from Psycho-Neurological Problems introduced a new method: ICP treatment with stem cells. Happily, the first positive result is registered.
By Olga Vasilina

Sadly, modern figures state that most disabled children suffer from ICP — accounting for up to 80 percent of the total number. Fighting this disease is a priority for doctors, with innovative technologies widely applied. Not long ago, Minsk’s City Centre for Medical Rehabilitation of Children Suffering from Psycho-Neurological Problems introduced a new method: ICP treatment with stem cells. Happily, the first positive result is registered.

health.pngThe method looks simple: stem cells are able to independently detect affected zones of the nervous system and transform into neurons — thus restoring a damaged brain. Several stages are needed for the treatment. Initially, material is taken from a donor (who is not necessarily a relative) to produce mesenchymal stem cells. It takes around a month to generate up to 2m of the latter in a laboratory. Then, half of them are injected intravenously. A week later, another half is introduced into the spine.

So far, a single ICP patient (from the Gomel Region) has been treated this way. The girl had unaffected intellect but suffered from motor dysfunction. Her mother acted as a donor. Doctors and parents are pleased with the result: the girl is able to walk for a longer period of time and also demonstrates better staying power, walking manner and new skills. Importantly, this progress has been achieved in around six weeks.

Meanwhile, Alexander Yakovlev, the Head Doctor of Minsk’s Centre, insists that a complex approach is needed, “We should not simply restore the nervous system structure. We need to restore its function and teach cells to work. Rehabilitation is vital and, to achieve this, we’ve used the most advanced technologies.”

The method of mesenchymal cell application to treat ICP patients has been become a joint work. The Children’s Neurology Department of the Belarusian Medical Academy of Post-Graduation Education is responsible for scientific backup, while the Republican Scientific-Practical Centre of Children’s Oncology, Hematology and Immunology oversees the work related to stem cells. The Centre’s Director, Olga Aleinikova, initiated the method development. In turn, the Children’s Medical Rehabilitation Centre provides exercises for small patients. By late 2015, the experiment is supposed to have included around 15 children, with all doctors guided by a single principle — ‘not to cause harm’ — in choosing these candidates.

Sadly, the problem of ICP is truly acute in Belarus and abroad. Irrespective of the geography, the economy or the health sphere development, globally, two children per thousand suffer from inborn ICP. In Belarus, there are around 5,000 such children with 2,000 of them annually rehabilitating at Minsk’s Centre. So far, doctors do not know for sure the reasons of this disease and the mechanism of its development is yet to be fully understood. Meanwhile, the exact period of its ‘birth’ is detected: perinatal; the disease emerges from the 22nd week of pregnancy to the second week of a baby’s life. Treatment is a true challenge, as doctors are looking not at the disease but its consequences. With this in mind, Mr. Yakovlev asserts that stem cell treatment could hardly become a panacea. “When a pathological factor — which a baby experienced during his perinatal period — is over, we boast limited possibilities. We are unable to deal with the reason of the disease (as when curing pneumonia, for example); in the latter case, we simply need to take antibiotics for microbes to die and patients to recover. Nothing of this kind is possible in the case of ICP. Accordingly, we speak of rehabilitation rather than treatment. We have no illusions that our new method will completely solve the problem, but we hope it’ll make rehabilitation more efficient,” he explains.

The Minsk Centre has already become a permanent venue for the testing of innovative methods. In the past, it became the first Belarusian institution to introduce EHF-therapy in treating ICP children. Botulinus toxin, a ‘cosmonaut costume’, locomotor training and soft splintage have all been tested here. The new stem cell method is supposed to occupy a worthy position among similar advanced technologies — both in Minsk and farther afield.
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