TORONTO — Researchers from Canada and Switzerland say a small group of paraplegics have felt some restored sensation after neural stem cells were transplanted into their spinal cords.
The experimental injections have not restored patients’ abilities to move their legs or other muscles below the site of their severe mid-back spinal cord injuries.
But Toronto researcher Dr. Michael Fehlings says that recovering some ability to feel sensation suggests the stem cells have partially repaired some spinal cord damage.
Fehlings says seven of the 12 patients at centres in Zurich, Toronto and Calgary who received the stem cell transplants had significant improvement in sensation.
The study found that the neural stem cells provided by California-based StemCells Inc. are safe and did not cause any adverse effects.
The company and researchers will next test the injections in people with cervical cord injuries, which are higher up in the spine and typically cause greater impairment.
Fehlings says if quadriplegic patients could recover even some motor function, it might mean being able to move their upper arms and possibly even their hands.
“And that could have a big impact in terms of people’s quality of life.”
The research was presented Thursday in Montreal at a joint meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society and the American Spinal Injury Association.
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Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press