Cord blood could help Weston, others like him

Clinical trial underway

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There's nothing Jenny and J.D. Stephenson wouldn't do for their son Weston and that included banking his umbilical cord blood when he was born.

"We actually felt a little silly saving it because it was so expensive, and we weren't guaranteed to need it for anything," said Jenny.

But they would need it. When Weston was 10 months old, doctors diagnosed him with cerebral palsy.

"Of course, you want the best for him, and you never want anything to be wrong," Jenny said.

Weston's developmentally delayed and has trouble using the left side of his body. There's no cure for his CP, but there's hope in his cord blood. As part of a clinical trial at Duke University, Weston receives his first infusion. His parents are thrilled.

"This was just the most exciting thing we had heard," Jenny said.

"If this is beneficial, it could really change the lives of those children tremendously for the better," said Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., chief scientific officer medical director at Robertson Cell and Translational Therapy Program at Duke University Medical Center.

Kurtzberg says the theory is cord blood cells can decrease inflammation, coax normal cells into fixing damaged tissues, and grow into new cells.

"Cord blood cells can graft and grow into some types of brain cells in the brain," Kurtzberg said.

Patients in a phase one trial reported improved speech, mobility and movement, but Kurtzberg says that study did not compare the cord blood to a placebo. The new study, that Weston is a part of, does. If Weston got the placebo on his first try, he'll get the cord blood later in the trial.

"It's why you get up every day and go to work," said Weston's father, JD.

"My hope is that we see a miracle, really," Jenny said.

Kurtzberg's trial is still enrolling patients. To be eligible, your child must have a CP diagnosis, be between one and six years old and his or her cord blood must be available.

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