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New treatment offers hope for those with spinal cord injuries

For those who have suffered a spinal cord injury, regaining the ability to walk is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is simply not possible. A new study indicates, however, that a combination of stem cell and physical therapy can help SCI patients regain both sensation and continence control.

Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School recently published findings from a clinical trial in the journal Cell Transplantation. The trial included 70 patients who had suffered spinal cord injuries and had been treated for at least six months without any improvement. The patients were divided into two groups, one of which received stem cells derived from their own bone marrow injected at the site of their injuries. Both groups received physical therapy. Over the course of 18 months, researchers evaluated patients from both groups to assess both their physical and neurological progress.

Of those who received only physical therapy, none of the patients showed improvement of either their sensory or motor function. Those who received stem cell treatments, however, saw definite improvements. Though the severity of injury varied among patients, the response to stem cell treatment was clear: after 12 weeks of continuous stem cell and physical therapy, patients experienced significant improvement in sensation and body control. In some cases, the improvement was enough to allow them to live without a catheter and to sit up and turn in their beds.

Overall, 23 out of the 50 patients who received stem cell treatments for 18 consecutive months saw improvement according to measurements on the American Spinal Cord Association Impairment Scale. Some were even able to stand and walk with assistance. The study noted that those with thoracic spinal cord injuries – that is, injuries to the spine in the middle of the back, as opposed to the neck – responded particularly well to the treatment.

Although they are optimistic about the long-term prospects for stem cell treatments, researchers caution that a great deal more study is needed to determine whether these sorts of strategies will work for most people. Specifically, researchers point to the need for more information about proper stem cell dosages and the times at which these therapies should be delivered. The findings of this study are encouraging.

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to another person’s negligence, contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. A personal injury attorney can evaluate your claim and explain your legal options.