Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Yale and Your Stem Cells

"Yale Scientists Repair Injured Spinal Cord Using Patients' Own Stem Cells." 

I'm not linking to this headline just because it has to do with a discovery made by my alma mater — even though it does.  The article is remarkable for other reasons.  Here's why.

Everyone has stem cells.  What if yours had the ability to help you recover from a life-changing injury?  There may be good news.  It looks as if they just might.  In this study of autologous stem cell use to treat spinal cord injuries, over half of the participants had "substantial improvements in key functions" shortly after having injections of their own bone marrow derived stem cells (MSCs).  The key functions that were improved include walking and using their hands.  Those are huge improvements.  Just as encouraging is the report of "[n]o substantial side effects."

Take a closer look at the numbers and the ASIA designations of participants.  Here's a breakdown of the study results, as available on ScienceDirect.  Thirteen people took part in the study.  Six were classified as ASIA A (complete); three of them improved to ASIA B (sensory incomplete) and two of them improved to ASIA C (motor incomplete).  Two of the thirteen participants were ASIA B.  One of them improved to ASIA C and the other to ASIA D (motor incomplete).  Five of the participants were ASIA C.  All five of them improved to ASIA D by the day after the infusion.  Overall, of the thirteen people in the study, twelve of them had improvements.  Six months after the infusion, functional improvements remained.

It's not a perfect trial.  Researchers caution that the study was unblinded and had no placebo controls.  Nevertheless, the promise is impressive: if you have a spinal cord injury, your own stem cells can bring significant improvement in important motor function.  Possibly within weeks, or even a day.


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