Stem cell therapy and spinal cord injury (SCI)

In the UK 50,000 people have a spinal cord injury (SCI)[1]
Every year there are 2,500 new cases of SCI in the UK[1]
20-30% of people with SCI show clinically significant signs of depression[2]
People with spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely[2]

people in the UK
have spinal cord injury

What is spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord is a long, tube-like structure that begins at the end of the brain stem and continues down to almost the bottom of the spine. It consists of nerves and tissue that communicate messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

A traumatic injury to the spine can cause a bruise, or a partial or complete tear in the spinal cord, leading to partial or total loss of feeling/movement in various body parts. The most common sites of injury are the cervical and thoracic areas.

Generally, spinal cord injuries (SCI) affect areas lower than the point of damage, so the higher the damage, the more movement and sensation will be lost. Spinal cord injury can even result in paraplegia and tetraplegia[3], although severity and recovery rate varies widely depending on the location and extent of the injury.

To aid recovery and lessen the risk of developing associated conditions, it’s essential that each patient receives appropriate rehabilitation and health maintenance support.

Stem cell therapy research

Stem cell therapy is rapidly evolving and offering treatment for spinal cord injuries. Although there is no current treatment available to restore injury-induced loss of function, evidence is building that stem cell infusions into the spine may support spinal cord repair.

Positive results have been observed in phase I/II clinical trials at Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid[4]. Twelve patients were given doses of the new treatment NC1 – made from autologous mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and autologous plasma. All twelve patients experienced improvements in sensitivity and 50% showed greater motor activity, decreased spasms and improved sexual function.

Since this clinical trial took place, the NC1 treatment has been approved by the Spanish Agency of Medicines. However, there is still more research to be done for stem cell therapy to be widely administered for repairing spinal cord injury.

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