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New Study Shows Promise In Treating Paralysis

Spinal cord injuries are often catastrophic because they frequently result in partial or complete paralysis. Around 11,000 Americans each year suffer from spinal cord injuries, and about 1.3 million people in the United States are paralyzed, according to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Because spinal cord injuries affect so many people in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country, it is thrilling to learn that doctors have completed the first human cell transplant for a spinal cord injury after decades of research. The successful transplant was conducted by The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in Florida.

It was announced that the transplant involved removing Schwann cells from nerve tissue in a man’s leg and transplanting them back into his spinal cord. The unidentified patient has now made it 30 days from the operation without any complications. The patient will continue to be monitored for a full year as part of the study.

The study, which was approved by federal officials last year, involves eight scheduled procedures, the second of which is just getting underway. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is still looking for another six people to enroll as subjects in the study; however, the criteria to qualify are quite strict: participants must have upper and middle back spinal cord damage; be between the ages of 18 and 50; have certain levels of paralysis; and have been injured no more than five days before enrollment in the study.

Researchers say it’s important to spread the word about the study. Stroke is the second leading cause of paralysis, while injuries remain the No. 1 cause. In addition to treating patients with spinal cord injuries, the transplants could potentially be used for treating neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Doctors seek new subjects after first successful cell transplant,” Diane C. Lade, March 14, 2013.