This is really exciting! This is a news release preceding the release of data in a research study involving injecting stem cells into patients who have experienced a spinal cord injury. This story highlights the spectacular results of one of the participants.
The story doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the participants condition unfortunately, but we can assume that he began as a higher C level spinal cord injury. It unfortunately doesn’t mention if he was a complete and incomplete injury. Within 1 month of the initial injury in a car crash, this individual was injected with stem cells near the injury site. The usual treatment in this case is surgical implantation of wires and cages to stabilize the fractured vertebrae. This prevents further damage to the spinal cord, but does absolutely nothing to improve function. The timing of this treatment is critical. The sooner you can provide the means for the body to self-repair any kind of damage, the better the outcomes. Which is why it was so important to push this participant to be medically stable enough to verbally consent to this experimental treatment and to under go the procedure. Which can be quite the challenge medically. Spinal cord injuries are serious trauma and often come with other traumatic injuries as well. In a car crash there would be great potential for additional brain injuries, orthopedic injuries like major bone fractures and internal organ trauma. Any one of those could be deadly in any instant.
After receiving the injection, the participant went on with usual rehabilitation with several regularly scheduled reassessments by the research team. At 90 days post-injury, the participant has regained the use of 2 full spinal levels. The question in my mind is: could this be the result of natural healing and reduction of inflammatory responses in the cord? I’m not sure, honestly. Of the spinal cord injured patients I’ve worked with, the youngest was twice the age of this study’s remarkable participant. In stroke, the younger folk improve DRASTICALLY faster than the older ones. So, what I’m saying is it is definitely in the realm of possibility that this is the body naturally healing. BUT I don’t think so. Gaining 2 full spinal levels in just 90 days is rather impressive.
I remain cautiously optimistic and am certainly going to be keeping an ear to the ground to see the rest of the data this group as come up with.