01 Aug The Positive Results of Stem Cell Transplantation for Spinal Cord Injuries
The exact number of people living with an acquired Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is not known. The World Health Organisation however estimates that the figure is near the half-million mark. Spinal Cord Injuries are mainly the result of trauma to the vertebral column. This may be as the result of road accidents, falls, assaults or industrial accidents. SCIs caused by diseases are relatively rare and form a significantly smaller proportion of the total number of SCI sufferers.
Injuries to the spine causes varying degrees of paralysis. The extent of the paralysis is largely dependent on the severity of the blow and how high up the spinal column it is located. The higher the injury point, the more severe the effects are likely to be.
Historically, spinal cord injuries have been met with two responses- surgical intervention or no treatments preferred by the patient. The reluctance to intervene, especially when the injury is extremely severe, is based on the fact that the spinal cord and the brain make up what we know as the central nervous system. Spinal interventions have therefore traditionally been kept to a minimum in the fear of worsening an already dire situation. Less severe SCIs have been the domain of the orthopaedic surgeons and, in recent times, neurosurgeons.
Regaining of voluntary and autonomic functions lost as a result of an injury to the spine had previously been rather elusive. However in recent years medical advances have presented SCI patients with 2 important paths back to relative wellness. The first is the Epidural Stimulation device that one can be trained in to operate limb movements without the impulses having to necessarily originate from the brain. This device is surgically connected to the nerve systems (and is implanted over the spine) and the patient is taught how to control it using a remote control gadget. Exhaustive training in its use makes the SCI patient quite adept at initiating and executing limb movements.
Secondly, equally important in changing the lives of persons with SCI, is the advent of stem cells. Stem cells are the building blocks of life and may be defined as undifferentiated cells that have the capability to differentiate (or develop) into specialised cells. They are also capable of dividing and renewing themselves for extended periods, providing the body with unlimited cells. They are in effect ‘spares’ and serve as a repair system for the body that has been affected by either disease or injury.
A recent study highlighted the effect of Stem Cell Therapy in the treatment of SCI patients. With the stated aim of evaluating the ‘effectiveness and safety of stem cell transplantation for SCI’ 377 patients participated in 10 studies. The upshot was that Stem Cell Therapy was not only determined to be an effective treatment for SCI but it was also proven to be safe and had the added benefit of improving the bladder function.
Patients fitted with the Epidural Stimulation device are offered the option of Regenerative Medicine (or Stem Cell Therapy) as the benefits that accrue from it go beyond improved mobility.
When you contact us, a patient representative will gladly walk you through the different aspects of SCI treatment and related therapies.