Spinal Cord Injury Research Symposium Details Advances in Treatment

Researchers working on new treatment options for spinal cord injury patients reported their latest advances at a symposium held last week in Newark, New Jersey. The annual symposium, which is hosted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, was inaugurated last year.

Symposium presenters described some exciting findings which, in time, might help improve the quality of life of people living with spinal cord injuries. Some of the research shows promise of possibly restoring some motion for paralyzed patients. Other research might result in breakthrough therapies that might help prevent recent spinal cord injuries from becoming catastrophic.

The reported advances in spinal cord injury research, according to NJ.com, include the following:

• Stem cell implantation in spinal cord injury patients shows promise for regenerating injured spinal cord tissue. A human clinical trial involving stem cells, currently being conducted by the University of Zurich in Switzerland, is anticipated to continue through at least 2015.
• A team of scientists with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey described advances they are seeing in studies using protein therapy to prevent laboratory mice from developing catastrophic spinal cord injuries. The research, in which an immune system protein is suppressed in an effort to reduce inflammation, has resulted in marked improvements in the animals’ ability to walk.
• Researchers with the Kessler Institute in West Orange reported that electrical stimulus implants in spinal cord patients have resulted in improved functioning. Some patients, for example, were able to sit up, move their toes, and even experienced improved bladder control and sexual functioning with the help of the implants.

Although these emerging therapies are not yet ready for widespread use in patients with spinal cord injuries, the researchers expressed optimism that these advances and others may eventually result in increased mobility and function, and ultimately, a better quality of life, for some of the estimated 265,000 Americans living with spinal cord injuries.