posted on Sep, 4 2012 @ 02:51 PM
Stem cells bring back feeling for paralyzed
For the first time, people with broken spines have recovered feeling in previously paralysed areas after receiving injections of neural stem
Three people with paralysis received injections of 20 million neural stem cells directly into the injured region of their spinal cord. The cells,
acquired from donated fetal brain tissue, were injected between four and eight months after the injuries happened. The patients also received a
temporary course of immunosuppressive drugs to limit rejection of the cells.
I can't help but be encouraged that these patients who had been unable to feel anything below the chest area can now feel sensations all the way down
to their bellies. Perhaps further treatments or a more developed therapy can restore their feeling all the way to their feet.
I think this would be a fantastic step forward for these people, because once paralyzed; the lack of sensation can lead to the patients' inability to
identify symptoms, like pains and aches, cramps, and other sensations which you and I might take for granted, but keeps us from ignoring a medical
problem that might only get worse.
"We are very intrigued to see that patients have gained considerable sensory function," says Armin Curt of Balgrist University Hospital in
Zurich, Switzerland, where the patients were treated, and principal investigator in the trial.
The data are preliminary, but "these sensory changes suggest that the cells may be positively impacting recovery", says Curt, who presented the
results today in London at the annual meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society.
Further promising research may indicate that there are even more encouraging possibilities along these lines. For example:
Human neural stem cell differentiation following transplantation into spinal cord injured mice: association with recovery of
The announcement comes almost a year after the world's only other trial to test stem cells for spinal injury was suspended. Geron of Menlo Park,
California, had injected neural stem cells derived from embryonic stem cells into four people with spinal injuries when it announced that it was going
to focus on cancer therapies instead. The company also abandoned its other stem-cell programmes combating diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Huhn hopes that the results from the StemCells trial will revive the enthusiasm that evaporated following Geron's bombshell. "It's the first time
we've seen a signal of some beneficial effect, so we're moving in the right direction, and towards a proof of concept," he says.
Let's hope that the dissenters find it more difficult to argue with the results when completely severed spinal chords are mended...
I am hopeful for this technology... but we are just starting to see good results:
He says that about 3 per cent of patients show similar improvements spontaneously at about 6 months, but seldom beyond that. Testing the therapy
on patients who were injured more than six months before would help to confirm that the stem cells are responsible for the results.