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Advancements in Stem Cell Transplants for Spinal Cord Injuries

Results from clinical studies on stem cell treatments for patients with spinal cord injuries have been released in recent years. While more research is necessary, the results are promising.

In 2009, the FDA in the United States gave approval to begin stem cell transplantation safety testing on humans. The initial study results demonstrate that patients showed improvement and with a notable absence of side effects. In fact, “Around the world, proprietary centers offering stem cell transplants and treatment with neuroregenerative substances are fueled by glowing testimonial reports of neurological improvement,” explains youris.com, a European research media center.

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Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Clinical Trail

Hatem E. Sabaawy, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine in the molecular and regenerative medicine program at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and other researchers conducted a study of 70 patients who had cervical or thoracic spinal cord injuries.

He divided the study subjects into two groups: One group received physical therapy treatment only and the other group received stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow and then injected near the injury site, as well as physical therapy. The patients were checked monthly for progress.

The physical therapy-only group showed no improvement in sensory or motor function. The stem cell plus physical therapy group, however, demonstrated the following:

  • Four weeks post-stem cell treatment – the patients responded to tactile and sensory stimuli.
  • 12 weeks post-stem cell treatment – improvements in sensation, muscle strength, and bladder and bowel control. Some patients were able to live catheter-free and sit up and turn in their beds.
  • 18 months post-stem cell treatment – nearly half of the patients showed a significant improvement the AIS scale and several were able to walk with assistance.
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University of Zurich Clinical Trials

The University of Zurich (UZ) conducted a Phase I/II chronic spinal cord injury trial using the HuCNS-SC® cells, purified human neural stem cells, on chronic thoracic injury patients. The study was performed on eight patients. Some patients had significant gains in sensory perception.

The stem cell methods utilized by UZ were Swiss-, Canadian-, and U.S.-approved. The initial analysis concluded that:

  • The technique and dosage “demonstrates safety and feasibility
  • Half of the subjects showed signs of “segmental sensory improvement.”

The study researchers suggested that the next step is to conduct a Phase II trial in spinal cord injury patients with both complete and incomplete injuries.

Hope is on the Horizon

The drive to find a cure for spinal cord injuries gained significant attention from American actor and spinal injury victim Christopher Reeve’s advocacy efforts. There are challenges to stem cell research and still many clinical hurdles to overcome, but there is now scientific evidence that creating effective treatment for spinal cord injuries may be possible.

“It is clear that the regenerative and secretory properties of bone-marrow derived stem cells can improve symptoms of paralysis in some patients when coupled with the current standard of care that physical therapy provides,” Dr. Sabaawy noted.

Funding Your Spinal Cord Injury Treatments

Any new treatments will undoubtedly be costly. If you or your loved one’s injury was the result of another party’s negligence, you might be able to recover compensation for damages, including medical treatments.

Ontario injury victims can contact lawyers at Preszler Injury Lawyers for a free legal consultation. Call 1-800-JUSTICE® to begin looking into your legal options for compensation and benefits, or contact us online.

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