Spinal Cord Injury
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Bioscience Americas and the Global Institute of Stem Cell Therapy and Research would like to extend a special thank you to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for their support relating to our work at the University California Irvin and the Anderson Laboratory. We have made exciting progress using stem cells to treat cervical spinal cord injuries because of their generosity.
Now, based on the results of Dr. Anderson’s Phase I/II clinical trial, our research partners are conducting a Phase II proof of concept trial using HuCNS-SC in cervical spinal cord injury. In this study, research participants are being treated between 10 to 23 months’ post-injury.
What is Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to the human spinal cord into three different segments of the neural tissue leading to a severe form of motor and sensory loss. The kind of damage can be differentiated as:
- Death of neurons within the spinal cord.
- Disruption of neuronal pathways due to damaged cells.
- Destruction of the protective myelin sheath carrying nerve signals from the brain to different organs of the body.
In most of the reported cases of SCI, damage can be due to trauma or disease. Apart from the physical damage and complete dependency on caregivers, SCI can be emotionally damaging as well. Due to dependency even on basic mobility, negative attitudes of suffering trauma forever and frequent mood swings can lead suffers to remove themselves from social participation. Thus more than 30% of the reported cases of SCI showed significant signs of depression and negative impact on functional improvement of overall health.
How prevalent is SCI?
Since SCI is associated with the loss of mobility, paralysis and mortality due to other opportunistic infections, it is known as one of the most critical and disastrous medical conditions. Every year around 2 million to 5 million people are reported to suffer from spinal cord injury. On an average, middle aged and young adult males are more susceptible to SCI mainly due to avoidable causes such as road accidents, injury, falls or violence. Mortality associated with SCI has been observed to be the highest immediately after the injury than in later years. The risk of mortality doubles with the severity level and is observed to be strongly influenced by the immediate availability of the best medical care. Preventable secondary opportunistic infections are also reported to be a major cause of death in many SCI patients especially in the lower income groups.
About 90% of patients in the age group of 20-45 have been reported to face other complications such as limited employment, decreased quality of life, and severe depression.
Factors responsible for SCI.
In general, a spinal cord injury is a result of to the severe damage to different parts of the spinal cord such as the vertebral column, ligaments or the spinal disks. This typically originates from sudden trama to the spinal cord such as fracturing, crushing or dislocating one or more vertebrae. Additional damage has been reported due to excessive bleeding, swelling, inflammation as well as other opportunistic infections. The most common reported causes of Spinal Cord Injury are:
- Motorcycle road accidents or accidents without protection leading to the traumatic spinal cord injury.
- In the aged population or women with osteoporosis SCI is often caused due to a fall.
- About 15-20% of the reported cases of spinal cord injury are as a result of violent encounters such as gun shots, knife wounds, fights, etc.
- Athletic injuries.
- Diseases such as cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of spine can cause spinal cord injury as well.
Symptoms Associated with SCI
In general, the severity as well as the area of injury are the factors to be of concern in most of cases of Spinal Cord Injury. On the basis of severity of injury, SCI is classified as:
- Complete SCI – If all the sensory and motor functions are lost, the injury is referred to as complete spinal cord injury.
- Incomplete SCI -If some degree of motor and sensory function is retained after the injury, it is referred to as incomplete spinal cord injury.
In addition to this, the extent of movement loss can be segmented into two parts such as:
- Tetraplegia – All the limbs including arms, hands, legs, pelvic organs are paralyzed by the injury.
- Paraplegia – Part of the body is paralyzed.
Apart from the one stated above some common signs and symptoms can be:
- Functional loss of movement.
- Functional loss of sensory organs such as ability to sense heat, cold and touch.
- Loss of bladder control.
- Changes in sexual activity including sexual sensitivity and fertility.
- Difficulty in breathing and coughing.
Some of the emergency signs and symptoms after the injury requiring immediate medical attention include:
- Extreme pain and pressure in lower back, neck as well as head.
- Weakness, lack of coordination or paralysis in any part of the body.
- Tingling sensation especially in the lower limb region.
- Maintenance of awkward posture.
What goes wrong in Spinal Cord Injury?
The human spinal cord is a fragile bridge connecting the brain with the other organs of the body. The spinal cord is encased in a protective covering of spinal vertebrae of the spinal column to prevent its damage from shock or injury. Our central nervous system, i.e. brain and spinal cord, is made up of millions of cells which coordinate and communicate to pass on the information from the brain to the other organs of the body via the spinal cord. This information is passed in the form of electrical signals which are then decoded by the specific organ.
Each neuron is made up of a cellular body with a long slender projection called the nerve fiber. These fibers are attached to other fibesr to form a dense network of cells. In general, neurons carrying messages down the cord from the brain to other organs of the body are known as Motor Neurons. These neurons control the muscles of some of the important internal organs of the body such as heart, stomach, intestine, etc. The neurons travelling up the cord to the brain are known as Sensory Neurons, carrying sensory information from skin, joints and muscles to control our ability to sense, touch and regularize temperature.
These neurons are insulated from the outer side by the coating of Oligodendrocytes and myelin sheath. These cells insulate the neuron to protect them from sudden damage and shock.
If any of the above type of cells is affected due to sudden damage such as shearing, laceration, stretching or shock, then the network of cells is disturbed due to which the passage of information from brain to the spinal cord and vice versa is halted.
How Stem Cells treatment can help.
Stem cells are the mother cells that are responsible for developing an entire human body from tiny two celled embryos. Due to their unlimited divisions and strong power to differentiate into all the cells of different lineage, the power of stem cells has been harnessed by our technology to isolate them outside the human body, concentrate in a clean environment, and implant back.
Thus stem cells treatment involves administration of concentrated cells in the targeted area, wherein they can colonize in the damaged area, adapt the properties of resident stem cells and initiate some of the lost functions that have been compromised by the disease or injury.
Thus with our standardized, broad based and holistic approach, it is now possible to obtain noticeable improvements in SCI cases, in the symptoms as well as their functional abilities.