Cerebellar ataxia is a disorder of nervous system that causes lack of muscle coordination of voluntary movements. A person with ataxia will not be able to walk properly, will not be able to pick objects and have problem with eye movements, speech etc. This occurs when the cerebellum- a part of brain gets inflamed or damaged, that’s why also known as cerebellitis. The condition most commonly affects children, particularly those between ages 2 and 7. However, it occasionally affects adults as well.
Ataxia can occur suddenly or can develop with time. The symptoms of Ataxia include:
- Impaired coordination
- Unsteady walk
- Slurred speech
- Uncontrolled eye movements
- Difficulty with fine motor tasks such as eating, writing, picking up objects etc
Cerebellar ataxia occurs because of damage in a part of brain called cerebellum whose function is to control gait and coordination. Ataxia can happen due to many reasons including:
- Head trauma
- Cerebral palsy
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Infections Ataxia can be a complication of chickenpox and other viral infections.
- Tumor A growth on the brain, cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign), can also cause damage to cerebellum.
- Toxic reaction. Ataxia is a potential side effect of certain medications, especially barbiturates, such as phenobarbital; sedatives, such as benzodiazepines; and some types of chemotherapy.
- Alcohol and drug intoxication, heavy metal poisoning, such as lead and solvent poisoning, such as from paint thinner, also can cause ataxia.
There’s no specific treatment available for ataxia. The treatment for ataxia depends on the cause of disease. When ataxia occurs due to viral disease, a full recovery is usually expected without any specific treatment. However when ataxia is caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, it is not treatable. In these conditions, doctors prescribe treatments only to relieve symptoms which include
Use of adaptive device-
- Sticks or walkers for walking
- Modified utensils for eating
Physical therapy to help your coordination and enhance your mobility
Occupational therapy to help you with daily living tasks such as feeding yourself
Speech therapy to improve speech and aid swallowing
Stem cell therapy for Cerebellar Ataxia
Stem cell therapy is an emerging therapeutic modality that has great potential for treatment of several untreatable diseases. Stem cells are unspecialized cells present in human body and have remarkable potential to develop into different kinds of cells. When stem cell divides, each new cell has inherent capability to be either a stem cell or can become more specialized cells such as muscle cells or red blood cells or brain cell.
The potential of stem cells for treatment have been widely explored in many disorders including ataxia, Alzheimer, autism etc. For neurological disorder, stem cell therapy helps in
- Aid in the regeneration and repair of neural circuitry
- Secrete neuro-protective factors that help cells already working at a healthy level
The procedure of stem cell therapy for a neurological disorder is minimally invasive, done on an outpatient basis, and is normally done in a matter of a few hours. The stem cell harvesting procedure requires only a small amount from patient’s thigh, or belly area, the only local anesthesia is needed. Stem cell procedure entails the infusion of stem cells into the body where they travel to dysfunctional tissues and restore them to their initial state. Stem cell therapy is expected to ameliorate the sufferings of ataxia patients with enhanced performance in muscular functions, peristaltic movements, and cranial capacity. The encouraging results obtained in clinical trials have raised a hope for a new era for management of neurological disorders including ataxia.