Researcher Hans Keirstead at University of California Irvine has developed what he says might be the key to helping spinal cord injury patients regain movement, and ABC Local article reported. Keirstead was able to get paralyzed rats to run after receiving his novel treatment for spinal cord injuries. The next step is getting his treatment to translate to human patients.
He told ABC, ‘This treatment I designed for individuals within two weeks of their injury. So it’s a scary thought that those individuals that will receive this trial haven’t even been injured yet.’ Keirstead’s method involves encouraging human embryonic stem cells to become spinal cord cells and then injecting them into injured rats. The cells made their way to the injury site and enveloped the nerves, allowing them to function properly again, the article reported.
Six weeks later, the rats were able to walk again. Human trials of the technique will likely begin sometime in late 2010. The first trial will involve 10 patients receiving the stem cell injections within two weeks of their injury. Some critics have said that Keirstead is pushing his treatment too quickly on humans. Supporters, such as Janne Kouri, who endured a spinal cord injury after diving into a sandbar in the ocean, say that a cure can’t come quickly enough.
Keirstead responded to critics by saying, ‘The patient community screams, ‘Please develop treatments. We want them now. Choose me, not the rat,” ABC reported. Keirstead is a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at UC Irvine. He added, ‘My lab was the first lab in the world to take stem cells that can make any cell in the body and trick them to become one thing only: a high purity population of one particular spinal cord cell type.’
Later this year Keirstead will inject his stem cell concoction into the spines of 10 injured people in the hopes that the technique will work just as well, or even better, than it did in rat models. He cautioned people against expecting too much from the treatment, however. ‘This is going to be an incremental advance,’ he told reporters.
Since there is no other treatment available for helping spinal cord injury victims to regain movement, Keirstead hopes his treatment will be a huge step forward in developing therapies to help spinal cord injury patients improve their condition. Other experiments currently underway in Keirstead’s lab involve treating older spinal cord injuries in a similar manner.
Toldo, Leslie. (March 3, 2010) ‘Teaching the paralyzed to walk again.’ Retrieved on March 3, 2010 from the ABC Local Web site: http://abclocal.go.com/wjrt/story?section=news/health&id=7308925