Specialists at Vinmec International Hospital in Hanoi have performed stem-cell therapy on a one-year-old baby boy to try and overcome the effects of cerebral palsy (brain paralysis).

The operation, which already appears to be working, was the first of its kind performed in Vietnam. Doctors will continue the therapy, until, hopefully, the infant starts to recover.

The boy, simply known as Bui Duy, has been suffering from the ailment since he was 10 months' old. The symptoms of the ailment are mainly a lack of body movement.

Cerebral palsy is neither genetic nor an infectious disease and thus is not contagious. Most cases arise at or about the time of birth.

The baby was first treated for sepsis (blood poisoning), which was accompanied by diarrhoea, high fever and convulsions. Doctors thought that the boy might never recover.

The blood poisoning left him with a brain starved of oxygen, which caused body stiffening, breathing difficulties, problems in eating and sleeping as well as communicating - in other words, cerebral palsy.

"The doctors said that my son was too young for acupuncture or traditional medicine, the usual forms of treatment in Vietnam. Stem-cell therapy became his last hope for recovery," said Tuan, the baby's father.

The boy received his first injection of stem cells on March 21.

Nguyen Thanh Liem, Vinmec Hospital Director, said that the stem cells came from the baby's bone marrow. They were injected into his blood and spinal cord to replace or support the injured brain tissue.

Four days after the injection, Bui Duy still had muscle contractions, but they were less serious and frequent. He is scheduled to have a second injection of bone-marrow cells on March 28.

Stem-cell therapy has been widely used in many countries to treat cerebral palsy. Researches in the United States and Europe said that 60-70 percent of those treated showed improvements in mobility and linguistic capabilities.

Following the stem cell breakthrough in treating diseases, the Vinmec hospital is underway preparing to treat another once incurable brain ailment, autism, which often leave children unable to communicate properly.

According to Liem, clinical trials of stem cell therapy on children with autism have been conducted in America, India and China. Results show that up to 70 percent showed varying degrees of recovery. This is considered promising as many as 200,000 Vietnamese children suffer from autism.

The cost of stem-cell treatment ranges from 120-150 million VND (5,800-7,200 USD).-VNA