Severe spinal injuries almost always cause paralysis below the level of the injury. To cure spinal cord injuries, the scientists more and more often focus on use of stem cells due to their huge regenerative potential. Following a ten-year research, surgeons from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have first implanted stem cell into a spinal column of a paralyzed patient during a spinal cord surgery – the first ever in the world.
The patient had become paralyzed in his lower body after a traffic accident a few months ago. After the first surgery that was performed soon after the accident, the scar developed that occupied the whole damaged part of the spine. During the second surgery, the doctors removed the scar from the patient's spinal column and implanted there mesenchymal stem cells and collagen complex along with a protein called collagen binding brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
The stem cells should recover tissue, collagen complex - restore connectivity and the protein – help the neurons to re-grow. The researchers designed collagenous fibers so that they serve as a bridge or a rail for the nerves as they grow.
The patient is reported to be in a good condition after the surgery. Another six patients with a spinal cord injury plan to undergo the surgery involving stem cell implantation, too. Moreover, the doctors plan to confirm the efficacy of the new therapy on a bigger group of patients.
Though this was the first surgery involving stem cell implantation, other techniques have shown promising results in repairing spinal cord injury earlier, too. In 2014, doctors and scientists from the UK and Poland conducted a surgery to restore the walking ability of a patient who got paralyzed from the chest down after a knife attack that resulted in a spinal cord injury. The scientists took nerve cells from the nose called olfactory ensheathing cells and used them to regrow the damaged spinal nerves.