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What is Spina Bifida?

During a fetus’ development in the womb, there is a group of cells called the neural tube that are responsible for forming the spinal cord and the brain. Typically, this should close during development and then be covered by the spine bone to protect the delicate spinal cord. Sometimes, however, it does not close all the way, causing the back bone to be incomplete.

Children with spina bifida may experience other symptoms such as apnea, in which the child can forget to breathe, along with other respiratory problems, incontinence in the bladder and bowels, paralysis in the lower extremities, developed curves in the spine, and talipes (or clubfoot) which results in malformed or underdeveloped feet. Another common side effect, and sometimes what alerts parents to the problem, is hair growth or a dimple (sacral dimple) around the site of the spinal cord opening. This site is called the occulta, meaning “hidden” as the skin covers the spinal opening.

There are three main types of spina bifida:

  • Spina bifida occulta (SBO): This is both the most common and most mild form of spina bifida. Also known as “hidden spina bifida,” many people will not even be aware that they have it until they have an X-ray for other reasons because it often does not have symptoms.
  • Meningocele: A sac of spinal fluid pushes through an opening in the back. This can have little to no symptoms, or create problems with continence in the bladder and bowels.
  • Myelomeningocele: This is the most severe form of spina bifida, as there may be multiple locations in the spine that have openings with sacs of spinal fluid poking out. Unlike meningocele, these sacs of spinal fluid also contain part of the spinal cord and nerves, which are usually damaged.

Stem cell therapy for spina bifida

Stem cells are regenerative in nature, able to differentiate into different types of cells the body needs to use, allowing the body to heal in ways it couldn’t on its own. By injecting stem cells into the injured site of a spina bifida patient, the stem cells can help to heal the opening of the spinal cord. In particular, while the prenatal surgery has been a great way to improve brain development, patients have still struggled with physical movement and incontinence. Stem cells have shown an ability to increase the physical capabilities of spina bifida patients, including muscle strength, incontinence, feeling and sensation, and general motor function.

Another study published in August of 2018 has shown that stem cell therapy for spina bifida has been successful in two patients, aged 14 and 11. Though the study was small, it was promising in that both patients were unable to defecate or urinate on their own until after their stem cell treatments. After treatment, both patients were able to control their bowel movements as well as their urine. A larger study will be done in the future to confirm the efficacy of this treatment, however, this has been a promising breakthrough for spina bifida patients.

What Makes our Treatment for Spina Bifida Effective?

Our treatment of Umbilical Cord Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (UCMSCs) are able to differentiate into different types of cells, such as osteocytes (bone), chondrocytes (cartilage), myocytes (muscle), fibroblasts (tendon/ligament), adipocytes (fat), hepatic stellate cells (liver), endothelial cells (blood vessels), all blood cells, connective tissues and more. Studies also show that they can create neurons and glial cells.

Potential improvements after the treatment

The purpose of the treatment is to promote healing of the original spinal cord/brain injury in order to restore neurological function. Thus, various kinds of improvement are possible after our treatment and our past patients have experienced the following:

  • Improved motor function
  • Increased sensations
  • Improved development
  • Improved mental abilities
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Reduced epilepsy seizures
  • Enhanced bladder & bowel function

*It is important to remember that as for any medical treatment, improvements cannot be guaranteed. Please contact us for more information regarding the possible improvements for a particular case.