Those in suffering from spinal cord injuries often have to face the cold fact that they may never walk again. In some cases, spinal cord damage results in the loss of mobility in both legs and hands, leaving accident victims totally dependent on others. Until recently, the thought that someone with such catastrophic injuries would ever regain the use of arms or legs was an unreachable dream. However, new research may give hope to victims of spinal cord injuries in West Virginia and across the country.
Doctors have long suspected that stem cells held the secret to restoring motor and sensory function to those who are paralyzed after a spinal cord injury. Last month, a team of researchers from Yale University and Japan’s Sapporo Medical University shared their most recent success. By collecting stem cells from the patients’ own bone marrow and injecting it back into the patients, doctors witnessed remarkable improvement in sensory and motor function.
What does this mean?
Doctors measure a victim’s spinal cord injury by grades A through E, with A having complete loss of sensory and motor function and E maintaining normal functions. Of the 13 patients given their own marrow stem cells, 12 of them improved by at least one grade. For grade A patients, this means they regained sensation below the point of injury, and some even regained mobility in the main muscles affected. Several patients with grade C injuries moved to level D within one day of receiving the treatment.
Of course, this is a preliminary study. There are still years of work ahead to reach the goal of curing spinal cord injuries. Nevertheless, the success of these tests have reignited researchers in their study of stem cells as a key to reversing many catastrophic injuries.