When Olivia Rosewood had her daughter Grace’s umbilical cord blood banked, it had simply sounded like a good idea, a preventative measure that might never be needed. But when problematic surgery to repair Grace’s palette led to cerebral palsy, the banked umbilical cord blood became their saving grace.
Since receiving an infusion of cord blood stem cells in December and a second infusion in March, Grace has shown marked improvement.
“She couldn’t stand without assistance,” Olivia said, recalling her daughter’s issues prior to the infusions. “Before, she couldn’t hold a pen. If she tried to push a button on an elevator, her finger would buckle. Her overall strength and mobility has really improved since then.”
Olivia researched stories from around the world and found cases in which stem cell research aided the recovery of patients suffering from paralysis and conditions similar to Grace’s. The Rosewoods sought aid from university studies on stem cell research and came upon Duke University’s cord blood donation program. Based on Grace’s weight and the number of stem cells available from her umbilical cord, she was able to procure around 800 million stem cells to treat her cerebral palsy.
Grace is due for one last infusion this June.
Grace Rosewood may serve as an example for the potential of stem cell research, despite stem cells being a divisive subject. Recent studies have suggested the benefits of stem cell treatment for stroke victims, Alzheimer’s patients and autistic patients, as well as those suffering from cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease. But stem cell research remains steeped in controversy, with the creation of some stem cells necessitating the destruction of human embryos.
Adult stem cell research remains an option for circumventing the usage of embryos, but cord blood stem cells are also not embryonic stem cells, which are produced from destroyed fertilized human embryos. Cord blood cells also offer the advantage of not being rejected by the patient’s immune system, something that can occur with embryonic stem cells received from another person.
“I told Grace that ‘this is something that you and I made together’ and there’s something so natural and wonderful about that,” said Olivia, referring to the umbilical cord. “Who besides Grace has a better right to what it has to offer?”
Olivia added that Grace is doing well, even to the point of doing handstands, which can be considered “a giant breakthrough.”
Although Olivia is enthusiastic about Grace’s progress, she is not unaware of stem cell research’s detractors.
“The first thought that comes to my mind is that Galileo was persecuted for telling the truth,” said Olivia. “When something is true and works, I don’t think you can stop that kind of progress.”