Cell Therapy Helps Spinal Cord Injury Patients Regain Movements
In the United States more than 17,000 people suffer from a severe, debilitating Spinal Cord injury (SCI) each year. Such injuries can be very devastating for patients’ quality of life and ability to function without depending on others. Moreover, lifetime healthcare costs related to patients with such spinal cord injuries can often escalate to around $5 million. Although the exact number of people living with Spinal Cord injury is not known, however, the World Health Organisation estimates that figure to be around nearly the half-million mark. This implies that around 250,000-500,000 people in the world have some kind of Spinal Cord injury today.
A Spinal Cord Injury refers to damage to any part of the spinal column which very often results in permanent changes in the sensation and bodily functions of the nerves below the injury site caused from road accidents, falls, physical assaults, industrial accidents or sport-related causes. A smaller proportion of such injuries can be a result of diseases such as Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Cancer and inflammation of the spinal cord. This injury results in disruption in the signal transmission between the body and the brain which results in a loss of sensation. Spinal Cord Injury results in a dramatic change in one’s life. The sudden loss of mobility is also accompanied by other functional impairments including incontinence and pain.
Presently in the United States itself around 450,000 are affected by a Spinal Cord injury. This implies that around 1 in every 50 people lives with paralysis. Paralysis caused by such Spinal Cord Injuries is often considered irreversible with symptoms and repercussions of such an injury being extensive.
Recent Cell Therapy Discovery
In a recent study, a new Cell Therapy was used to treat six patients, out of which four significantly restored two or more motor levels on at least one side of their body. The Cell Therapy notably restored motor function at a recovery rate roughly double of what is estimated from conventional treatments for similar patients and at an impressive recovery rate of 67%; a number that is typically not very easily attainable for patients with severe paralysis.
The study included surgically injecting around 10 million of the studied cells in the patients suffering from paralysis. Dr. Richard G. Fessler, professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the lead investigator of the study of AST-OPC1 nerve cells, mentioned that the results from the study were much more beyond than anything they had hoped from the study. Rush is one of the nine centers in USA working on this new approach.
Fessler further added that usually after suffering from a Spinal Cord Injury, a patient doesn’t improve much beyond one to two months. However, in the study being conducted, improvements in patients with Spinal Cord Injuries continued even after 12 months of receiving the treatment. The improvement is meaningful for the patients since it helps in regaining functionality of body parts which assist in performing daily activities such as eating, typing and other activities done using hands. According to Dr. Edward D. Wirth III, chief medical director of Asterias the aim of the study was that around 12 months, 45- 50 percent of the subjects would recover at least two motor levels on at least one side, but the study’s results exceeded the target recovery rate.
Christopher Block, was injured in an accident in July 2016 that left him paralysed from the neck down. He received an injection of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells, which support proper functioning of nerve cells and helping to restore the conductivity of signals from the brain to the upper extremities in a damaged spinal cord. He mentioned that the feeling of being able to regain the motor functions felt amazing and feels like one is reborn again.
In this study, AST-OPC1 was administered 21-42 days after the initial injury, but patients must receive treatment 25 days after their injury, which is very fast. Moreover, those patients with spinal cords severely affected cannot receive this treatment since for this therapy to work, the spinal cord has to be in continuity. Neurological exams and imaging procedure of patients have been conducted to assess the safety of the treatment. However, those who can receive this treatment, can restore their motor function, something which conventional treatments cannot hope for yet.
This new Cell Therapy could help in future towards rehabilitating those with severe spinal cord injuries. This regenerative therapy is life changing, however it comes with its own limitations and restrictions in using it. The trial involved testing three escalating doses of AST-OPC1 in as many as 35 patients with subacute, neurologically complete injury to the cervical spinal cord. This refers to the individuals essentially who have lost all sensation and movement below their injury site and have severe paralysis of the upper and lower limbs.
Epidural Stimulation for Spinal Cord Injury
Although many people regard Spinal Cord injury to be irreversible and untreatable, the Epidural Stimulation implant has already helped a number of patients to regain their strength and movements in areas considered permanently damaged by paralysis.
Epidural Stimulation patients are offered an optional treatment of modern Regenerative Medicine including Cell Therapy. Regenerative Medicine has arguably emerged as one of the most viable and powerful treatment options due to the proven safety, ability to regulate the immune system’s reaction towards the injury, and to differentiate cell types including neurons and astrocytes. It has been used in clinical treatments of patients with Spinal Cord Injuries since 2005
According to the further studies conducted, the conclusion is that Regenerative Treatments may result in functional recovery following Spinal Cord injury especially when they are treated with the combination of the Epidural Stimulation implant, and supportive therapies including extensive Rehabilitation. The combined treatment helps in improved sensation, motor function, muscle mass and strength, balance and coordination, neuropathic pain, sexual function and sweat ability. Regenerative Treatment can also help in replacing damaged, diseased or lost neurons.
If you or a loved one is considering to receive the Epidural Stimulation implant, please feel free to contact us