Treating a Spinal Cord Injury with Cord Blood
Serious driving accidents or physical impact can cause spinal cord injuries (SCI), which may lead to paralysis of reduced motor skills. Clinical trials are underway to test the effectiveness of cord blood therapy in treating SCIs.
What are spinal cord injuries?
Spinal cord injury (SCI), happens when the spinal cord is damaged through vehicle accidents, falls or physical activities. These impacts add up over time, but may also result from a single major injury. SCI often leads to reduced muscle movement and body system control.
Common symptoms for spinal cord injury include:
- Loss of movement
- Reduced bladder and bowel control
- Increased reflex spasms
- Intense back pain
- Difficulty breathing
Stem cells and spinal cord injury
In 2010, a clinical trial tested cord blood therapy for rats with acute spinal cord damage. Treatments were successful – subjects injected with umbilical cord stem cells showed reduced side effects, faster recovery times and improved motor functioning. Researchers are currently testing future spinal cord therapy using stem cells from cord blood.
Traditional treatments for SCI focus on physical therapy, occupational therapy and other rehabilitation activities. Patients going through SCI must learn to cope with their disability over months of mild physical activity.
Case studies are looking at the effectiveness of stem cells as a treatment for patients with SCI, with current trials showing patient’s conditions improve after a successful transplant using stem cells. Improvements include more bladder and bowel control, increased sexual function and extended muscle activity.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood may be the most useful cells in the entire body. These cells are taken after a mother gives birth – the cord is removed from the baby and sterilized by medical staff, and stem cells are extracted from the blood. These cells are cryogenically stored, and accessible instantly at any point in the future, if they are needed by a patient for transplant.
While bone marrow is the traditional source of stem cells, donors must be an exact match to the transplant patient, and finding the right donor often takes time. In some cases, no donors are available, and patients can’t receive a transplant. However, cord blood doesn’t require a matching donor, so patients have more treatment options.
Bone marrow may also cause graft-versus-host disease, where the transplanted stem cells attack the patient’s body. Cells from cord blood are much more adaptable, and have a much smaller chance of this dangerous side effect.
Advantages of cord blood treatment
- Patients have more treatment options, since cord blood cells don’t require an exact donor match
- Stem cells from cord blood are the most anti-inflammatory cells in the body
- Bone marrow transplants may harm the donor, but cord blood is completely painless for both the mother and baby
- As more researchers are using cord blood in clinical trials, they note how effective the stem cells are – in many cases, these cells are more useful than bone marrow cells
Medical trials are currently testing cord blood therapy for spinal cord injury. Stem cells from cord blood can be stored to protect your family from these dangerous conditions.