Stem cell breakthrough at UC Davis helps babies with spina bifida defy expectations

Three babies have been born after receiving the world’s first spina bifida treatment, combining surgery with stem cells, at UC Davis Health.

Diagnosed before birth with a spinal defect, three babies have kicked their legs, wiggled their toes and blown away their parents and a team of researchers at UC Davis Health. While still in the womb, each child was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition that often leaves a section of a newborn’s spinal cord exposed and unprotected by the backbone. Babies born with the defect can have intellectual and physical disabilities that range from mild to severe, depending on how big of a hole they have in their spines, where it is and the impact on the spinal cord or nerves.

In the video below, Mom, Michelle Johnson talks about the vast improvements for baby Toby already and in the link, Mom Emily talks about significant mobility improvements for baby Robbie who is now 12 months old. Baby treated with first spina bifida treatment at UC Davis | The Sacramento Bee (

For 25 years now, Dr. Diana Farmer has been working on ways to treat this prenatal defect. Right now, Farmer said, this initial stage of the clinical research is about showing that the surgery and stem cell treatment are safe. UC Davis plans to enroll 35 moms-to-be in this trial. To enroll for the trial go to

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