Stem Cell Trial May Help Cure Paralyzed Patients

California-based company Stem Cells, Inc. has announced the beginning of a clinical trial in which neural stem cells will be implanted in spinal cord injury patients, says a press release on MSNBC’s website.  According to the report, the trial, which will take place at the Balgrist University Hospital in Switzerland, will treat 12 patients with varying levels of chronic paralysis from spinal cord injuries that occurred between three and 12 months ago.

Globe Newswire reports that this trial is the first of its kind.  Not only will the study treat patients with widely differing degrees of motor and sensory impairment, but it will also attempt to treat patients with chronic spinal cord injuries, says the release.  In order to be effective, the press release states, current treatments must begin within hours or days of the injury, called the “acute” or “sub-acute” phases.  An injury is not usually considered chronic until months later, when patients have reached a plateau in the recovery process and increased function becomes unlikely, explains the report.

Dr. Armin Curt, Chairman of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the University of Zurich, will lead the trial, which will implant human neural stem cells in the spinal cords of paralysis patients, says Globe Newswire.  According to the press release, the specific stem cells to be used are HuCNS-SC cells, a product of Stem Cells, Inc. which has shown excellent prospects for grafting and long-term survival in the laboratory.  Doctors hope that a single transplantation will successfully induce the cells to begin growing in the spinal cord, says the report, leading to not only greater sensory and motor function, but increased bladder and bowel function as well.

Researchers are still looking to enroll patients with chest-level spinal cord trauma for the trial, which will examine them regularly for a full year after the transplantation surgery, reports Globe Newswire.   Because long-term results are equally as important to record, a separate study will follow the patients for four years after, says the press release.  Vice President of Stem Cells, Inc., Stephen Huhn, reports that the first group of patients will be those with complete loss of function below the injury site, and the trials will progress on to those with incomplete injuries by the beginning of next year.

According to the report, Dr. Curt is optimistic about the scope of the trial and the promising new avenues for research should it prove successful.  He says, “I am extremely pleased to be involved in a study that is breaking barriers in the search for a treatment that could lead to improved quality of life for injured patients.”

References:

Globe Newswire. (March 14, 2011). “Stem Cells, Inc. initiates world’s first neural stem cell trial in spinal cord injury.” Retrieved March 18, 2011 from MSNBC.