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Yale researchers are repairing the injured spinal cord using patients’ own stem cells

Intravenous injection of bone marrow stem cells (MSCs) in patients with spinal cord injuries has led to significant improvements in motor function, researchers at Yale University and Japan reported on February 18 in the Journal of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery.

For more than half of the patients, significant improvements in key functions – such as the ability to walk or use their hands – were observed within weeks of the stem cell injection, the researchers said. No significant side effects have been reported.

Patients suffered non-penetrating spinal cord injuries, in many cases from falls or minor injuries, a few weeks before the stem cells were implanted. Their symptoms include loss of motor function and coordination, sensory loss, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. The stem cells were prepared from the patients̵

7; own bone marrow using a culture protocol that took several weeks at a specialized cell processing center. The cells are injected intravenously into this series, with each patient serving as their own control. The results were not blind and there were no placebo controls.

Yale researchers Jeffrey D. Cochis, a professor of neurology and neurology, and Stephen G. Waxman, a professor of neurology, neurology and pharmacology, are senior authors of the study, conducted by researchers at Sapporo Medical University in Japan. Principal researchers from Sapporo’s team, Osamu Honmu and Masanori Sasaki, both hold additional professorships in neurology at Yale.

Kocsis and Waxman stress that further studies will be needed to confirm the results of this preliminary, non-blinded study. They also stress that this could take years. Despite the challenges, they remain optimistic.

Such stem cell results in stroke patients increase our confidence that this approach may be clinically useful, ”said Kochis. “This clinical trial is the culmination of extensive preclinical laboratory work using MSCs between colleagues from Yale and Sapporo for many years.”

“The idea that we can restore function after brain and spinal cord injuries using the patient’s own stem cells has intrigued us for years,” Waxman said. “Now we have a hint to people that this may be possible.”

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