Each year, approximately 12,500 new spinal cord injuries will occur within the United States. The National Spinal Cord Injury Model System explains these statistics do not reflect the number of people who die at the scene of accidents as a result of spinal injuries. Males account for 80 percent of new spinal cord injury patients, and the average age at which a person sustains a spinal cord injury is 42 years old. This is a 29 year increase in average age since the 1970s.
Spinal cord injuries are permanent when they occur, and can cause profound changes to the lives of victims and their families. Treatment of spinal cord injury is limited and is often focused on managing symptoms and conditions resulting from full or partial paralysis. However, Reuters reports there is new research currently underway which may be showing promise for improving treatment options.
New Research Leading to Advances in Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
Reuters indicates StemCells Inc. is seeing early signs of success with the use of stem cell therapy as a method of spinal cord injury treatment. The company is currently conducting a mid-stage study aimed at determining whether stem cell therapy can be effective at increasing limb strength in patients with spinal damage.
The company is focused on the development of stem cells derived from tissue. The harvested stem cells are modified to multiply into different nerves of the body, which means the stem cells can treat a variety of different conditions. When administered to spinal cord injury patients, the stem cell treatment is given 10 months following the occurrence of the initial injury.
Four of six patients treated with the StemCells Inc. cells have demonstrated improvement in limb strength on two different scales. There were no adverse side effects reported by patients who were involved in the study. The goal is for the completion of research over the course of 2017.
Another company, Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. has also previously released results of studies showing promising results from the use of stem cell therapy. The Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. data was released in August and showed its lead stem-cell therapy was able to help patients who were paralyzed to improve their mobility.
Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. and StemCells Inc. differ in the source of stem cells, with Asterias using cells derived from embryos. Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. also targets its treatment at patients who have sustained very recent injuries, rather than administering the stem cell therapy months after the initial injury has occurred.
The fact these two different companies, using different techniques, have both shown positive impacts of stem cell therapy on spinal patients is good news. Hopefully, advances in this area will continue and one day spinal cord patients will have a wider range of effective treatment options, which could help to restore at least some mobility and limb strength after a paralyzing injury.
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