Progress toward the day when human stem cells can be used to treat spinal cord injury patients may have moved a bit closer, according to a preliminary results of a study by Stem Cells, Inc. reported at the recent annual meeting of the American Spinal Injury Association on May 19, 2014.
The presentation included data from five subjects with thoracic (T2-T11) spinal cord injuries. All were treated by direct transplantation of HuCNS-SC (purified human neural stem cells) into the spinal cord. All were treated with immunosuppressive drugs prior to the transplants. Time elapsed from the dates of injury ranged from 4-24 months.
The researchers saw significant post-transplant gains in sensory function in four of the five patients, with the first changes beginning 1-3 months after the transplants. “We are seeing multi-segmental gains and a return of function in the cord of multiple patients. This indicates something that was not working in the spinal cord now appears to be working following transplantation,” said Dr. Stephen Huhn, vice president, CNS clinical research at StemCells, Inc.
“These results are exciting with respect to the expansion of this trial into patients with cervical injury because even a gain of one to two segments in cervical spinal cord injury patients can allow for additional function in the upper extremities,” says Dr. Hahn. The trial involved three centers: the University of Calgary; the University of Toronto; and Balgrist University Hospital at the University of Zurich. The company plans to begin cervical spine injury trials this year.