DOCTORS are claiming a major breakthrough in treating cerebral palsy with a pioneering stem cell technique.

Medics in Germany said they have successfully treated a child with cerebral palsy for the first time.

Just weeks after being given an intravenous stem cell treatment from umbilical cord blood, the symptoms of a boy who had been left in a vegetative state after a heart attack improved considerably and within months he could talk and move.

The doctors who carried out the treatment said the results of the treatment dispel "long-held doubts" surrounding the effectiveness of stem cell therapy.

After going into cardiac arrest in November 2008, the two-year-old boy, known only as LB, was left paralysed with severe brain damage and in a vegetative state. Doctors warned his parents that his chances of survival were minimal.

Until now, there has been no treatment for the cause of what is known as infantile cerebral palsy.

Dr Arne Jensen of the Campus Clinic Gynaecology in Bochum, who carried out the new treatment, said: "In their desperate situation, the parents searched the literature for alternative therapies. They contacted us and asked about the possibilities of using their son's cord blood, frozen at his birth."

Nine weeks after the brain damage, on January 27, 2009, the doctors administered the prepared blood intravenously.

They studied the progress of recovery at two, five, 12, 24, 30 and 40 months after his brain injury.

Usually, the chances of survival after such severe brain damage and more than 25 minutes of resuscitation are just 6%.

Months after severe brain damage, surviving children usually only exhibit minimal signs of consciousness.

But just two months after treatment with the cord blood containing stem cells, the boy's symptoms improved significantly.

Over the following months, the child learned to speak in simple sentences and to move.

Jensen said: "Our findings, along with those from a Korean study, dispel the long-held doubts about the effectiveness of the new therapy."

In animal studies, stem cells have been shown to migrate to damaged brain tissue.

In a previous study with rats, researchers revealed that cord blood cells migrate to the damaged area of the brain in large numbers within 24 hours of administration.

In March 2013, in a study of 100 children, Korean doctors reported for the first time that they had successfully treated cerebral palsy with cord blood.

Jensen and his colleague Professor Eckard Hamelmann of the Department of Paediatrics at the Catholic Hospital Bochum, reported their success in the journal Case Reports in Transplantation.