Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury
What is Spinal Cord Injury?
Damage to Spinal Cord or nerves at the end of the spinal cord would results in permanent changes in strength, sensation and other physical body functions below the site of the injury.
The ability to control the limbs after such injury depends on two factors – the region of injury along the spinal cord and the severity of the injury.
The severity of the injury can be complete or incomplete.
Complete – almost all sensory and all ability to control movement (motor function) are lost below the region of affected spinal cord injury.
Incomplete – some motor function or sensory function below the affected area.
Apart from the above, paralysis from a spinal cord injury may be referred to as Quadriplegia – which means the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the injury.
Paraplegia – The paralysis would affect all or part of the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.
The usual common causes of Spinal Cord Injuries are :-
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Acts of violence
- Sports and recreation injuries
- Diseases like cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of spinal cord
Conventional Treatments for Spinal Cord Injury
Unfortunately, there is no way to restore the damage to the Spinal Cord conventionally. After the period of hospitalisation and emergency operations are over, the rehabilitation of the patient begins. Medications for control of pain and muscle spasticity as well as to improve bladder control, bowel control and sexual functioning are prescribed. Medical devices like wheel chairs for mobility of the patient may also be necessary.
The patient may have to undergo regular sessions of physiotherapy to prevent the muscles below the site of the injury from wasting away. Any improvement in the condition of the patient will be seen within weeks or within 6 months of his return home from the hospital.
Stemcell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury
After a spinal cord injury, many nerve fibres at the site of the injury lose their insulating layer of myelin, because of which nerve fibres are no longer able to transmit signals between the brain and the spinal cord properly, contributing to paralysis. Unfortunately the spinal cord does not have the ability to restore these lost myelin forming cells after trauma.
Numerous studies and clinical trials conducted all over the world have proved that Stemcell Therapy can bring about improvements in the condition of patients who have suffered spinal cord injury. Some of the patients regained their motor functions and some others the sensory functions partially or fully. In a multicentric clinical trial, a patient with spinal cord injuries sustained in an accident was infused with stem cells obtained from his bone marrow (autologus) within hours of the accident and was able to regain both motor and sensory functions fully and was later discharged from the Hospital fully recovered.
The doctors and the scientists involved in the clinical trial believe it must have been due to the fact that the timely infusion of the stemcells before scar tissues could be formed at the site of the injury might have contributed to the full recovery of the patient. However it is too early to draw any conclusion and more research and more and more trials have to be done before stemcell therapy becomes a standard of care treatment for treating patients with Spinal Cord Injuries.