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Implant Procedure May Help Spinal Cord Accident Victims

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

For spinal cord accident victims, the prognosis is often grim. Paralysis below the point of the initial trauma is far too often the inevitable result, and little can be done to help those who are paralyzed regain full function of their limbs. For that reason, in cases where the spinal cord injury was caused by another's negligence, the recoveries obtained in personal injury lawsuits is often substantial, in order to cover the costs of life-long rehabilitative care.

However, medical research teams in California and across the country are working to change the fate of spinal cord accident victims. For example, a recent post discussed a California medical center's innovative rehabilitation therapy, using brain-controlled robotic ambulation. Today's posting examines a cutting-edge surgical procedure showing promising results for paralysis victims.

The procedure involves the implantation of 20 million neural stem cells directly into a patient's spinal cord -- something that had never been done before. Researchers feared that the patients would have reactions to the procedure. Surprisingly, however, none experienced any unwanted side effects, and 2 out of the 3 test patients were able to regain some sensations.

Before the implantation, the patients did not have any neurological function -- or sensations -- below the point of their injuries. After the implantation, one patient was able to access three to four spinal cord segments below the paralysis point, and another was able to reach five to six segments. Measurable patient sensitivities included responsiveness to light touch and temperature, and electrostimulation of the spinal cord itself.

Now that researchers have determined the treatment to be safe, the next phases of their research will be testing the implant procedure on nine other people who have incomplete injuries or some limited sensation or function after an injury.

Source: HealthPop, "Paralyzed patients regain some sensory function after neural stem cell treatment," Michelle Castillo, Sept. 3, 2012