As reported in Outcome Magazine, Agence France-Presse GmbH (AFP) reports that Doctor Wise Young, a leading researcher into spinal cord injury, believes that the cure for spinal cord injuries may come out of China in the future. This nation, once lagging far behind the United States in such biomedical research, has become a leader in cutting-edge spinal cord research thanks to federal funding which is at least equal to that of the U.S. Young also explains that China’s “legal framework governing its clinical standards is second to none,” contributing to their emergence as a biomedical research leader.
Unfortunately, one of the unintended side effects contributing to China’s ability to excel in the research of spinal cord injury is their booming economy. This has led to a spike in the number of auto and construction site accidents, contributing to “soaring numbers of spinal injuries.” According to the report from AFP, “China’s rate of chronic spinal cord injuries has increased more than 10-fold since 1995.”
The actual procedure in development which may help reverse these devastating injuries involves injecting umbilical cord blood-cell transplants into the spinal cord along with lithium treatments. The lithium promotes the growth of nerve fibers. Although this has produced promising results so far, Young said it would be premature to start drawing conclusions.
At this point, Young notes that the procedure appears to be safe for patients. However, he explains that the regeneration of these nerve fibers is an extremely slow process. He explains that “In two sessions of three hours each, six days a week, the patients ‘sculpt’ their nerve fibres into shape.”
AFP explains that this procedure is being tested at around 20 different medical facilities around China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. While Young is careful in his use of the word “cure,” he notes that China’s rapid turnaround in the research arena has contributed to the possibility that the lives of spinal cord injury patients may soon change forever.
The researcher explains that “What we should do is get (patients) to a point where you can’t tell that they have been injured, and I think that is an achievable goal.”