Spinal cord injury research is always evolving, and news from UC San Diego gives even more hope to people with spinal cord injuries.
UCSD scientists say they have discovered a way to enable nerve fibers to grow AFTER a severe spinal cord injury has occurred. Their study was conducted on rats. Scientists used stem cells – in the form of a gel application – to rewire the rats’ central nervous systems, allowing them to grow new nerve cells and to regain some movement in the areas below their spinal cord injuries.
The next step?
A spinal cord injury is any injury that damages the spinal cord, the complex bundle of nerves that runs through the spinal bones or vertebrae. The spinal cord may be damaged when the vertebrae are broken or dislocated, causing them to cut or push against the spinal cord. In severe cases, the spinal cord may be severed completely.
Approximately 12,000 people suffer a non-fatal spinal cord injury in the U.S. each year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. About 262,000 people in the U.S. live with a spinal cord injury.
Currently, the average age of a spinal cord injury patient is 40.7 years. Men are more likely than women to suffer a spinal cord injury; each year, about 80% of new spinal cord injuries happen to men. However, any serious trauma or injury to the body may result in a spinal cord injury, especially if the trauma results in a broken back or head injury.
Traumatic spinal cord injuries affect nearly 1.25 million people in the U.S., leading to incomplete or absolute paralysis and a loss of sensory below the point of injury. A recent Reuters story reports that a study published in the Public Library of Science Journal has revealed the potential of fixing damaged spinal cords within weeks or even months after an accident.
The study’s results derive from immature human nerve cells that were transferred into the spines of mice, in which the mice were able to walk better after the insertion. Some mice received the cells a month after their spines were surgically severed, which demonstrates that the potential of spinal cord injury treatment may exceed the few days after an accident in order to be successful.