New Promise for Spinal Cord Injury Victims

A company out of California, StemCells, Inc., recently released the results of its 12-month study regarding the use of stem cells to return some function to victims of complete spinal cord injuries.

A “complete” spinal cord injury refers to a total loss of motor and sensory function below the injury site.  An “incomplete” injury describes damage to the spinal cord that results in the loss of some, but not all, function.

The study was fairly small; only three patients were studied, each suffering from a complete spinal cord injury.  Twenty million stem cells (more specifically, “purified human neural stem cells”) were introduced to the injury site on the spinal cord of each patient.  Two of the three patients experienced gains in sensory function within six months of the procedure, gains which they continued to experience 12 months post procedure.  (Unfortunately, the third patient did not experience any gains.)

The company’s CEO and President, Martin McGlynn, expressed measured optimism at the results, while celebrating the study’s apparent novelty:

“While we need to be cautious when interpreting data from a small, uncontrolled trial, to our knowledge, this is the first time a patient with a complete spinal cord injury has been converted to a patient with an incomplete injury following transplantation of neural stem cells.”

The company has plans for additional trials.