Stem cell therapy is believed to have repaired the damaged spinal cord of a dozen patients

Thousands of people suffer from spinal cord injuries every year. This type of injury is relatively serious in that it can result in significant and often permanent loss of motor skills. Victims can also experience loss of sensation due to nerve damage.

There are currently virtually no additional treatment options beyond physical rehabilitation programs. However, thanks to the work of an international research team made up of American and Japanese experts, things may soon change. As Science Alert tells us, they conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in treating spinal cord injuries.

Mesenchymal stem cells are introduced intravenously

In fact, stem cells, or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), are undifferentiated cells that can renew themselves. The fact that they can differentiate into specialized cells allows them to repair bones, muscles, and adipose tissue, not to mention cartilage.

As part of their experimental treatment, the researchers took stem cell samples from each of the 13 patients in the experiment and then injected them intravenously into the body. Note that the cells used come from the bone marrow.

Controversial treatment

“The idea that it is possible to restore motor function after a brain and spinal cord injury using the patient’s own stem cells has fascinated us for years,” said Stephen Waxman, neurologist at the University of Yale, lead author of the study.

Of the 13 patients who had undergone the experimental treatment, all but one had regained their most important sensory and / or motor functions six months after the infusion (photo illustration). Photo credit: Shutterstock / ALPA PROD

In fact, this is not the first time this type of treatment has appeared in the media. Its use as a therapy is very controversial, especially after the Japanese Ministry of Health gave the green light for implementation in healthcare facilities in 2018. In addition, other groups develop more or less similar techniques.

No side effects

While these competing research groups are looking at injection methods, Stemirac, the team behind this new study, advocates the use of intravenous fluids. “Intravenously infused MSCs can affect not only the site of the injury, but other parts of the central nervous system, including the brain and blood vessels,” the paper said.

Note that the 13 patients who underwent the experimental treatment all suffered from non-traumatic spinal cord injuries. All but one had regained their major sensory and / or motor functions six months after the infusion. Best of all, no adverse effects have been reported.