Treatment of spinal cord injuries with stem cells

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  • Publié le : 28 décembre 2010
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A Brilliant Technology
In 2008, 250,000 Americans were spinal cord injured and for 92% of them it was caused by an accident.10 Knowing that they can possibly be victims of such misfortunes, scientists have put lots of effort to develop new technologies to help people who are paraplegic and quadriplegic. In the last decade, they’ve fine tuned a new technology involving stem cells. Stem cells holda great potential for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. However, researchers still have lots of problems to solve related to this new discovery. Progenitor cells can regenerate part of a damaged spinal cord and that’s why comes with it loads of positives effects. Unfortunately, neurosurgeons foresee problems regarding this scientific breakthrough. Thus, stem cell technology is only one ofthe possibilities offered to people with a spinal cord tear.
First, having the possibility to replace injured tissue, progenitor cells will change forever the way paraplegic anticipate their future. The spinal cord is defined as, “a major part of the central nervous system which conducts sensory and motor nerve impulses to and from the brain”1. Of course, that means the spinal cord is an essentialpart of the human body. Accordingly, fractures of the vertebrae, which then crush the axons, can cause lots of really serious problems to a person. For example, loss of sensation and motor function below the level of injury, loss of sexual function, incontinence problem, etc. 2 The point is that a spinal cord laceration can ruin a person’s life, and moreover, no one is sheltered from it. That’swhy a new cure, like progenitor cell implantation, which would enable people to walk again, is a considerable scientific discovery. Stem cells are, “cells that have the potential to transform into multiple types of cells and are capable of regenerating or repairing damage”.3 Stem cell treatment consists in doing an injection of embryonic cells at the injury site in the spinal cord or in thecerebrospinal fluid, “each dose contains over 10 millions stem cells”4. Those injections help to bring back communication between cells in the spinal cord and help to restore function lost due to the shock. In brief, the regeneration of the spinal cord with stem cells is a big step forward because it facilitates the life of the people who had a spine injury and hopefully, make them have a normal lifeagain.

On the other hand, this new innovation is not free of eventual problems. Sooner or later, patients who are treated with this technology can reject immunologically the stem cells, and then, the surgery was made for nothing. Also, this innovative technique comes with a humongous bill, “the cost of the program usually ranges from $65,000 to $85,000 for the surgery […] additional costs will beassociated with a post surgical treatment regimen.”5. Furthermore, patients who want to qualify for such an operation need to have, “a percentage of the original fibers remaining to form a bridge across the injury site”6 and an intact dura sac (the dura sac is the membranous sac that encases the spinal cord). Consequently, this method is not perfect because it cannot cure everyone. That meanssome aspects of it need to be revised and modified to reach perfection. Nevertheless, more than one injection needs to be done to regenerate the damage that has been done on the spinal cord. For this reason, patients need to return for hospitalization every two months for additional embryonic cell transplants. Unfortunately, medical centers who offer this procedure are rare. Therefore, it isexpensive and requires a lot of travelling. Last but not least, there is a big controversy surrounding researches, opponents say that embryonic stem cell technologies can devalue human life because it is too similar to cloning technologies. Also, they do not accept the fact that physician are using embryo for their experiments because they believe it is already a human life.
Nowadays, to cure spinal...
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