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Can Stem Cell Therapy Aid in a Paralysis Patient's Recovery?

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 17 October 2017
Can Stem Cell Therapy Aid in a Paralysis Patient's Recovery?

Traumatic spinal injuries make it impossible for many patients to operate assistive devices, turning simple movements into titanic struggles, replacing independence with a reliance on caregivers.

But recently, an ambitious stem cell treatment could prove to be a ground-breaking development for paralysis recoveryhelping patients move their hands and arms on their own. While doctors and scientists aren't making any promises, there are plenty of reasons for hope.

The Birth of a Treatment

Scientists from Fremont's Asteria Biotherapeutics extracted embryonic stem cells from other cells originally isolated for in vitro fertilization. The embryonic stem cells were processed and transformed into oligodendrocyte precursors, then transplanted directly into the spinal cord with a syringe.

How Do Oligodendrocytes Impact Spinal Function?

Oligodendrocytes help construct myelina fatty white substance surrounding the axon of nerve cells, forming an insulating layer essential to a functioning nervous system. Spinal cord injuries outright kill most cells, while the myelin on the remaining living cells is damaged beyond the body's natural recuperative abilities.

Without functioning myelin, nerve cells can't signal the spine to control movement or sensory information in the body.

Promising Results

Studies in animals have shown the transplanted cells effectively repairing myelin on their own, while releasing chemical agents that trigger the body to repair itself.

Another new trial with human patients transplanted 10 million cells into subjects' spines. The results were promising, showing 67% of patients improving by at least two motor levels about a year after treatments.

An increase of two motor levels is exponential. Patients initially lacking enough strength to operate a wheelchair recovered enough to dress themselves with minimal caretaker assistance.

After a year, patients are still improving, suggesting that the stem cells are remaining healthyan initial concern of scientists.

Nothing Proven, but There's Reason for Hope

Scientists and doctors are proceeding with caution when it comes to making any hasty declarations about these treatments. While results correlate with the stem cell treatments, patients may be experiencing spontaneous recoveries or benefitting from intense rehabilitation. Neither scenario is unheard of in spinal cord recovery.

However, when compared to large groups of people with similar injuries, patients who've undergone stem cell treatments display staggeringly positive results.

"[] we don't know for sure if it's the stem cells. But I've been treating these kinds of patients for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this before [] This is the first time we've had reason for hope," says Dr. Richard Fessler, lead investigator of the Asterias trial.


We may not treat paralysis, but our numerous stem cell and injection therapies are ideal for treating chronic spinal conditions such as lower back and neck arthritis.

Spinal surgery is a dangerous procedure and one that should be avoided if possible. Epidural and cortisone injections only offer temporary solutions that can prove detrimental in the long run! RegenerVate offers less risky options via our regenerative medicines and injection therapies - contact us to learn more!
Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Stem Cell Research

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