Doctors in the United States are using a ground-breaking umbilical cord blood treatment to help a 5-year old girl with brain damage. The treatment may help her recover cognitive function and could dramatically improve her quality of life.

The girl’s name is Samantha Szura. She was a toddler when found face-down in a swimming pool. Samantha had fallen in and drowned, which cut off oxygen supply to her brain, causing brain damage.

She was quickly rushed to a Michigan hospital. Her heart rate was dangerously low and doctors weren’t sure if she was going to make it. However, thanks to their efforts, her condition stabilised. Unfortunately, Samantha’s brain damage was quite severe. Her parents soon realised she couldn’t walk, talk, or feed herself.

However, there was some good news. Samantha’s parents, Carrie and Steven, had saved the umbilical cord blood of their first child. Doctors told them that Samantha could receive a transfusion of her sister’s cord blood stem cells in an effort to treat her brain damage. The stem cells would make it easier for Samantha’s brain to form new neuronal connections.

To receive the experimental treatment, Samantha had to be enrolled in a cord blood study being performed by Duke University. The study was being conducted to determine the function of a separate component of cord blood called a monocyte. Researchers believe that monocytes can release special chemicals that can reach the brain and encourage the formation of neurones.

Samantha received a transfusion of her sister’s cord blood, in a process that took about 10 minutes. She has now returned home and will be monitored to see if the treatment improves her condition in the coming months.

Source: Brain damaged girl, 5, gets sister’s umbilical cord blood to help her recover