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Restoring sight with stem cells from cord blood and tissue: Vladomir’s story

In 2008 Yuliya gave birth to twins born prematurely at 32 weeks. These babies named Elizaveta and Vladomir were born by caesarean section. The girl was born healthy, while her brother suffered brain damage due to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. At the age of one and a half, Vladomir was diagnosed with partial atrophy of the optic nerve in both eyes and the doctors told the family that the child would never be able to see. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy results from oxygen deprivation at birth.

The incidence of this condition varies from 1.5 to 10 affected babies per 1000 births. The only treatment options for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy are hypothermia, when applied immediately after birth, and cell therapy, which seems to give the best results when applied a short distance after brain damage. In 2019 Yuliya gave birth to another baby boy, who was born healthy. Her tissue and cord blood were collected and stored and found to be a match for Vladomir. In July 2019, Vladomirreceived an infusion of his brother’s cord blood.

Six months later he also received an infusion of mesenchymal stem cells, derived from his brother’s cord tissue, administered intravenously, intrathecally and via retrobulbar injection. By 12 months after the transplant, the therapy had led to significant improvements in motor skills and coordination, and the child is now able to ride a bicycle. The most striking improvement, however, was in his vision. Before the treatment Vladomir had a visual acuity of 0.02 in both eyes. After treatment the left eye reached 0.15 and the right 0.20.

These measurements, converted to the Snellen scale used in the USA, equate to 20/133 for the left eye and 20/100 for the right eye. The thickness of the retinal ganglion cells increased by 30% compared to the initial value. Vladomir’s sudden improvement in vision has certainly transformed his life. He was previously destined for a school for the blind, but now he can read the second line of the vision charts and can attend a regular school. Vladomir’s case is important because it shows the benefits of cell therapy based on cord blood and tissue in the context of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy in adolescents.

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