Ground-Breaking Stem Cell Therapy Helps Paralyzed Patient to Walk 

04 Apr, 2024 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While stem cell therapy has shown much promise in treating some medical issues, the use of stem cell therapy has been somewhat controversial over the years. One reason for the controversy is due to the large number of businesses offering unlicensed and unproven stem cell treatments that are not approved by the FDA. However, one recent miraculous case study announced by Mayo clinic may have patients lining up for treatment. 

According to statistics from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are around 18,000 new Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) per year. In the U.S., around 302,000 people currently live with an SCI, most of which have occurred from automobile accidents, falls, acts of violence, or sports activities. 

Around 1.7 percent of the U.S. population has some kind of paralysis, of which 33.7 percent is caused by stroke and 27.3 percent is caused by an SCI. Besides impacting physical ability, households of paralyzed people earn around $15,000 per year less, and have lower percentages of employment. The ability to treat SCIs and other paralysis injuries to help them return to a normal life could have monumental implications. 

Researchers from Mayo Clinic treated ten SCI patients with stem cells that were harvested from fat in their abdomen or thigh. The stem cells were expanded for a period of four weeks to 100 million cells, and then injected into the lower spine lumbar region. 

Included in the study were six patients with neck injuries, and four patients with back injuries, none of which had significant changes in MRIs at one year. All patients were followed for a period of two years, with ten examinations occurring during that time period. 

In SCI cases, the most recovery is experienced within the first twelve months after an injury occurs. Then the improvement gradually tapers off or stops at 12 to 24 months after the injury. In the Mayo study, the average time from injury to treatment was 11 months. However, one patient received the stem cell treatment 22 months after the injury and still improved one point on the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale. 

Overall, the researchers noted 7 out of the 10 patients made improvements on the ASIA scale. The improvements noted included increased sensation to pinpricks and light touch, increased strength in muscle motor groups, and improvements and recovery in bowel function including voluntary contraction. 

Two out of three patients with no feeling or sensation below mid-spine or thoracic region improved by 2 points on the ASIA scale, with sensation and voluntary contraction abilities in their lower regions. The researchers estimate that only 5 percent of people with a complete thoracic injury would be expected to regain any feeling or movement.

According to a recent report from Becker’s Spine Review, Chris Barr who was paralyzed from the neck down for seven years after a surfing accident, participated in the study. In the five years since his treatment, he has improved his independence, and has gained the ability to walk and stand on his own, with continued improvements in walking speed. 

Stem cells are known for moving towards inflammation, however their ability to interact with the spinal cord - which has very limited ability to repair or make new cells - is not fully understood.  While the results of the study are promising, it may take years before the treatment becomes a common option for patients.  

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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