Stem cells have been the source of much hope for those searching for a cure for spinal cord injuries. Progress has been gradual, but a recent study moves the development of a cure one step closer. Researchers were able to restore movement in the legs in mice with chronic spinal cord injuries.
In the UC-Irvine study, human neural stem cells were injected into the spinal cords of mice 30 days after spinal cord injuries caused hind-limb paralysis. After several months, some mice showed significant and lasting recovery of walking ability. The mice also did not experience allodynia, which is pain from a stimulus normally not responsible for pain. This was one of the feared complications of treatment for spinal cord injuries.
Significance of the Study
This study is important because it focused on the early chronic phase of a spinal cord injury. This is the period after a spinal cord injury when inflammation has stabilized and recovery reaches a plateau.
Until now, stem cell therapy in the chronic phase has failed. Currently, there are also no drug treatments to improve functioning in this phase. Previous studies have mostly focused on the initial or "acute" phase of spinal cord injuries where drug treatments can have some effect. This research potentially expands the window for stem cell transplantation and gives new hope to those who are paralyzed or have impaired functioning of their limbs.
Roughly 1.3 million people in the United States have chronic spinal cord injuries. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common cause of spinal cord injuries is a motor vehicle accident. Auto and motorcycle accidents combined account for more than 40 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year. The results of the UC-Irvine study demonstrate that in the future stem cell therapy may be a viable treatment option for the many people living with these injuries.
Since current treatments are limited, the consequences of a spinal cord injury are often life-altering. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident or because of the negligence of another, you should consider contacting a lawyer. An attorney can advocate on your behalf to ensure you are compensated for the medical and financial consequences of your injury.