I have known about this for some time, but because I didn’t want to be guilty of the same hyping that is so often engaged in by some therapeutic cloning proponents, I waited until it was published in a peer reviewed journal. Now it has been and the news is HUGE: Korean scientists have used umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal cord injury patient. I have no link, but I do have the report published in Cythotherapy, (2005) Vol 7. No. 4, 368-373.
The patient is a woman who has been paraplegic from an accident for more than 19 years. (Complete paraplegia of the 10th thoracic vertebra.) She had surgery and also an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells. Note the stunning benefits: “The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation her feet responded to stimulation. On post operative day (POD) 7, motor activity was noticed and improved gradually in her lumbar paravertebral and hip muscles. She could maintain an upright position by herself on POD 13. From POD 15 she began to elevate both lower legs about 1 cm, and hip flexor muscle activity gradually improved until POD 41.” It goes on from there in very technical language.
The bottom line is this, from the Abstract: Not only did the patient regain feeling, but “41 days after [stem cell] transplantation” testing “also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite” and below it. “Therefore, it is suggested that UCB multipotent stem cell transplantation could be a good treatment method for SPI patients.” (My emphasis.)
We have to be cautious. One patient does not a treatment make. Also, the authors note that the lamenectomy the patient received might have offered some benefit. But still, this is a wonderful story that offers tremendous hope for paralyzed patients. Typically, it has been completely ignored in the American media (although it has gotten some foreign press attention). (Can you imagine the headlines if the cells used had been embryonic?)
One last point. This is a patient with a very old injury–making the results even more dramatic.
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