Stem cell therapy is a rapidly evolving and promising treatment for spinal-cord injuries. According to a new literature review, published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (JAAOS), different types of stem cells vary in their ability to help restore function, and an ideal treatment protocol remains unclear pending further clinical research.
Approximately 230,000 Americans suffer life-changing acute spinal cord injuries each year. These injuries lead to neurological compromise through an inflammatory response and cell death within the spinal cord. But stem cells are considered promising because they are self-renewing human cells that can differentiate into one or more specific cell types. Ideally, treatments for spinal cord injuries would limit existing cell death, stimulate growth from existing cells, and replace injured cells.
"Stem cell treatment is a realistic hope for spinal cord injury patients," said lead author Gregory D. Schroeder, MD, spine research and clinical fellow at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "There is high-quality basic science research, and clinical trials in humans are underway."
The authors evaluated research findings on different types of stem cells:
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