New spinal cord therapy gets FDA approval

Although wanting to follow his Football Hall of Fame father to an outstanding career, a young college player has now endured neck-down paralysis for 27 years. The famous Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has now helped 300,000 people living with spinal injury. But, the father-son tireless work is bearing valuable fruit.

The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a unique clinical trial. The phase 1 trial will evaluate the transplanting of human “Schwann” cells to treat paralyzed patients. The word “unique” is appropriate, as this is the first similar trial ever undertaken. These particular cells reside in the human peripheral nervous system and function to send electrical signals to the brain and extremities. Clinical researchers believe this process might be a key component to discovering a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Scientists for the University of Miami Medical Center will monitor results for the eight spinal cord patients who will be injected with their own Schwann cells. The donors who have contributed millions of dollars and the neuroscientists who have dedicated their lives to curing the awful effects of these terrible injuries are awaiting the answers to their lifelong hopes and dreams.

This initial trial gives confidence to researchers who have already witnessed Schwann cells repair the central nervous systems of lab animals who were implanted with their own Schwann cells at the specific sites of their injuries. Center researchers have discovered these cells behave like stem cells to renew and restore damaged physical functions. To date, studies with rats, mice, pigs and primates display that around 70 percent of motor function and movement can be restored in totally paralyzed subjects. In all cases the Schwann cells survived, grew and multiplied without delivering dangerous side effects to the treated animals.

The Miami Project, founded by the Hall of Fame linebacker, Nick Buoniconti, has been seeking a spinal cord injury cure, for over two decades. Do you find it inspiring and uplifting that the dedication and commitment of the few can lead to the successful efforts of some to heal the troubles of the many?

Source: ABC News, “Spinal-Cord Injury Therapy OK’d by FDA Could Lead to Cures,” Susan Donaldson James, July 31, 2012

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