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Stem cells treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

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With the recent increasing approach of stem cells therapy, it is possible to treat many degenerative conditions, such as spinal cord injury; for which conventional medicines had no cure. In this regard, stem cells therapy has been referred to as an alternative therapeutic approach; targeting at the regeneration of lost cells, like axons in case of spinal cord injury that has been damaged due to accident or other traumatic injury. Clinical evidences have suggested that stem cells therapy has helped many spinal cord injury patients to regain back lost sensation to some extent and eliminate pain.

Stem cells are body’s proactive cells that have been primarily involved in natural repairing as well as regeneration of cells; which are lost due to routine wear and tear of the body. The approach of repairing spinal cord injuries with the allogenic applications of mesenchymal stem cells goes beyond any conventional techniques, including surgery to help victim regain back some or all the lost functions. Studies have as well confirmed effective symptomatic management of spinal cord injuries with respect to pain, movement, bladder control, etc. The treatment benefits that have been reported so far post stem cells treatment on spinal cord injury patients are:

  • Effective elimination of chronic pain and cramps
  • Better movement
  • Better control over bladder as well as bowel movement
  • Reduced muscular tension, delayed muscular atrophy due to increased muscular strength
  • Improved motor functions
  • Improved sexual functions

The treatment is being offered through umbilical cord tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells, which have been extracted and expanded under controlled conditions. Stringent procedures and protocols are maintained for their scaling up and enrichment, as per the regulatory guidelines. These stem cells are infused intra-thecaly via lumbar puncture. The stem cells are expected to repopulate at the damaged areas of the spinal cord, modulate the intrinsic immune system, exhibit a potent anti-inflammatory effect and create a better microenvironment for speedy regeneration of lost cells.

Multiple studies have been undertaken globally for the risk assessment and feasibility analysis of treating patients of spinal cord injury with stem cells therapy. It has been exhibited that stem cells treatments are accountable for 25-30% of the average post treatment performances related to sensory as well as motor outcomes. The data as well supports the fact that the degree of effective outcome is related to the administration of large number of viable stem cells; suggesting a plausible underlying biological effect. The meta-analysis further reveals some interesting facts, which should be noted that the effective treatment outcome is quite biased with the age, sex, severity of injury and type of injury; and thus demands further investigation.

Although research is still going about improvement in effective utilization of stem cells therapy; but current clinical findings indeed seem to confer better statistical improvements in terms of better restoration of sensory as well as motor functions and promising treatment outcomes in many spinal cord injury patients.

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Spinal Cord Injury: Know your Spine!

Spinal cord injuries are becoming very prevalent with nearly 10-15000 reported cases, each year in a developed country. These injuries are basically associated with the accidental trauma, damaging structural as well as functional integrity of the spine; leaving behind a crippled patient and his family along with their struggle to cope up with the catastrophe. Although, in order to be familiar with possible availability of treatment options, one has to be aware of the basic spinal cord anatomy; in this regard the current write up will help you to understand your spine.

The spinal cord is made up of millions of nerves that have been wrapped through a myelin sheath and are packed inside the secure covering of 31 butterfly shaped vertebrae. Anatomically the structure is being divided into four distinct regions depending upon their functional attributions. Exact location of the region of injury is the key to find diagnostic aid as well as effective treatment support. Accordingly the spinal cord regions are categorized as:

Cervical Spinal Cord

The top most portion of the spine has been named as the cervical spinal cord and is primarily responsible for connecting the central nervous system with rest of the organs of the body. The eight vertebrae section performs many crucial functions, such as housing the important messages from brain to rest of the body through important blood brain barrier, protecting the bundle of nerves, supporting and adding flexibility to the head, ensuring proper flow to the brain, etc. Number of vertebrae associated with the region is been identified as C1-C8.

Thoracic Spinal Cord

The section refers to the middle section of the vertebrae, numbered from T1-T12. It mainly supports the back side of the chest and is primarily structured for the stability. This part of the spinal cord plays an important role in holding the body in an upright position; and hence provides protection to the critical organs of the body. The said intricate structure of the spine; enclosing nerves, connecting tissues and other crucial segments is a primary source of pain.

Lumbar Spinal Cord

The lower region of the spinal cord, associated with its inward curve towards the abdomen is referred to as a lumbar spinal cord. It is comprised of five vertebrae that have been numbered from L1-L5. Being at the lower extremities, the segment of the spine is specifically used for strength as well as flexibility. It is generally connected with sacrum at the Lumbosacral joints (L5-S1), is used for considerable rotation allowing easy coordination between pelvis and hips, while walking or running.

Thus, by pinpointing  the exact location of the injury; one can help in accurate prognosis. Although, injuries can be of any type; the most common amongst them are:

Quadriplegia

Quadriplegia usually results as a result of injury to the cervical spine, causing paralysis of all the limbs and hence are identified to be the most severe. These kinds of injuries eliminate an ability to undergo any kind of movement, adding up complete dependency to the individual’s life.

Paraplegia

The type of injury is associated with thoracic spine, involving loss of movement as well as sensation from the lower half of the body; including legs, hips, etc.

Apparently injuries below the lumbar spinal cord can typically be associated with loss of sensation in lower half of the body.

Thus, at present steroidal drugs as well as other rehabilitative approach can only be extended as a treatment to the spinal cord injuries. Contrary to which, alternative medicine like stem cells therapy has been observed to have a better beneficial impact on treatment outcome. Worldwide clinical studies have confirmed the safety as well as clinical efficacy of the sem cells and hence can be thought as a viable alternative to conventional medicine.