Stem cells are known as the body's building blocks, and different kinds of stem cells generate different kinds of cellular tissue. For example, neural stem cells generate cells in the spinal cord and brain.
An international team of researchers, some of whom did their work in Toronto and Calgary, have reported that paraplegic patients have begun to experience sensation again after receiving neural stem cell transplants in their damaged spinal cords. The hope is that this kind of stem cell therapy will lead to restoration of movement in some patients living with paralysis.
Twelve individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries, specifically in the thoracic region, underwent the experimental treatment. Dr. Michael Fehlings, who led the study in Toronto, said that while the treatment did not restore motor function below the injury site, seven patients had "significant improvement in sensation."
"The implications of what we're doing now are really quite profound because we have now legitimately entered into the era of regenerative neuroscience," said Fehlings.
For each patient, the stem cells were transplanted at least three months after the injury but before it had permanently scarred. The cells, which grow along nerve fibres in the spine, were transplanted below and above the injury.
The patients also received medication over a nine-month period to prevent their immune systems from reacting to the neural stem cells, which the researchers concluded were safe.
Researchers now plan to turn their attention to stem cell transplants for cervical spinal cord injuries, where researchers hope the procedure will result in improved motor function in patients' arms and hands.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we know that the purpose of all such treatment and research is to improve quality of life for SCI patients, and we stay abreast of medical breakthroughs that could help individuals with serious medical conditions. Our firm also has an in-house medical consultant for any of our clients who have questions about their treatment and recovery.
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