Stem Cell
Therapy and
Spinal Cord

The outcome of a spinal cord injury can have a life altering effects. These include loss of movement, loss of senses, and loss of bladder and bowel control. Stem cell therapy has been proven to help towards recovery from spinal cord injuries with ongoing studies being made.

Yale study

Results of a study released by Yale University shows insight into the benefits of patients using their own stem cells to repair spinal cord injuries.

Patients with spinal cord injuries had stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow. The patients that took part in the study had sustained their injuries due to minor traumas or falls. These injuries had caused long term effects on their basic functions, such as walking, using their hands, loss of senses , and inability to control their bladder and bowels.

After the stem cells were injected into the patients, over half of them began to show substantial developments in their functioning skills. Progress made over the weeks after the stem cell treatment was observed by scientists.

Further studies are yet to be made with the patients; this will need to be carried out over the years to come to validate the results of the treatment although the scientists involved remain hopeful.

The study was carried out at Sapporo Medical University in Japan. At the head of the study were Jefferey D. Kocsis and Stephen G. Waxman, both professors of neurology and neuroscience at Yale University.

“Similar results with stem cells in patients with stroke increases our confidence that this approach may be clinically useful,” stated Kocsis.

“The idea that we may be able to restore function after injury to the brain and spinal cord using the patient’s own stem cells has intrigued us for years,” Waxman noted.

“Now we have a hint, in humans, that it may be possible.”

Chris’s story

Chris Barr was left paralysed from the neck down after sustaining spinal cord injuries in a surfing accident. That is, until he was offered to participate in a life-changing stem cell therapy study.

At first Chris was given a 95-97% chance of never regaining movement below his neck, leaving him feeling hopeless. A year of physiotherapy sessions helped Chris to regain some movement in his toes and hands, but his progress stopped shortly after. This was when he received a call from DrMohamad Bydon of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr Bydon, a spinal cord researcher, told Chris about a study at the Mayo Clinic where patients’ own fat tissue stem cells would be isolated through liposuction at the waist, then injected into their spinal cords. Chris would be one of 10 patients enrolled onto the study.

Despite initial uncertainties, Chris and his wife Debbie were determined to do all that they could to improve Chris’s condition.

“You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose…I mean, this is exactly why I stuck around was to do something. Listen — you know, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to participate in this.”

After Dr Bydon performed the stem cell therapy on Chris’s spinal cord, it wasn’t long before he noticed feeling in his legs, arms and surprisingly started to walk for consistent intervals.

While Dr Bydon’s research at the Mayo Clinic is in the early stages and patient responses have varied, Chris’s story highlights that it’s an exciting step towards curing paralysis and spinal cord injury.