Stem Cell Transplant Restores Feeling After Spinal Injury

Via the New Scientist: "For the first time, people with broken spines have recovered feeling in previously paralysed areas after receiving injections of neural stem cells. 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. None of the three felt any sensation below their nipples before the treatment. Six months after therapy, two of them had sensations of touch and heat between their chest and belly button. The third patient has not seen any change. ... The fact we've seen responses to light touch, heat and electrical impulses so far down in two of the patients is very unexpected. They're really close to normal in those areas now in their sensitivity. ... The sensory gains, first detected at three months post-transplant, have now persisted and evolved at six months after transplantation. We clearly need to collect much more data to demonstrate efficacy, but our results so far provide a strong rationale to persevere with the clinical development of our stem cells for spinal injury. ... We need to keep monitoring these patients to see if feeling continues to affect lower segments of their bodies. These are results after only six months, and we will follow these patients for many years. ... There could be several reasons why the stem cells improve sensitivity ... They might help to restore myelin insulation to damaged nerves, improving the communication of signals to and from the brain. Or they could be enhancing the function of existing nerves, replacing them entirely or reducing the inflammation that hampers repair."

Link: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22235-stem-cells-bring-back-feeling-for-paralysed-patients.html

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