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Breakthrough stem cell treatment has restored feeling to paralysed patients

Two clinical trial patients paralysed with a spinal cord injury have regained some sensation after undergoing breakthrough stem cell treatment in a trial conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich. Three patients were involved in the trial. All participants suffered injury to their thoracic spinal cord, which left them with no function or feeling below the injury.

16 Sep 2012

Two clinical trial patients paralysed with a spinal cord injury have regained some sensation after undergoing breakthrough stem cell treatment in a trial conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich.

Three patients were involved in the trial. All participants suffered injury to their thoracic spinal cord, which left them with no function or feeling below the injury.

The researchers injected the three patients with neural stem cells. After six months of treatment, two of the participants regained some sensation in their chest and abdomen. The treatment was conducted four to nine months after the participants’ injuries.

The two participants who regained feeling can feel heat and electrical and touch stimuli. The reappearance of sensation was deemed “rather unexpected” by lead researcher Dr Armin Curt.

“We are very intrigued to see that two of the three patients have gained considerable sensory function,” Dr Curt said.

“The gains in sensation have evolved in a progressive pattern below the level of injury and are unanticipated in spinal cord injury patients with this severity of injury, suggesting that the neural stem cells are having a beneficial clinical effect.”

The study was met with enthusiasm at a meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society in London, though one scientist warned that three per cent of spinal patients can show spontaneous improvement in the months following injury and said that the study should extend to patients who had been injured for a longer period prior to treatment to achieve accurate results.

The three patients are the first of a dozen scheduled for the treatment.

The stem cells used in the trial were harvested from donated fatal brain tissue.

KW


Published: 16 Sep 2012