Stem Cells and Spinal Cord Injury

If stem cell studies involving spinal cord injuries remain encouraging, there could be new treatment options available to spinal cord injury patients beyond traditional spine surgeries and pain management techniques. Stem cells, so-called “mother cells” that have the potential to become any type of cell, could, theoretically, assume the function of damaged nerve cells in the spinal cord to facilitate healing while preventing the deterioration of nearby cells.

Types of Stem Cells Used

Adult stem cells are the preferred type of stem cells used for the purpose of cell repair and regeneration. Typically, such cells can come from either human umbilical cord tissue or the patient’s own bone marrow. Before stem cells are used, a screening process identifies the following:

  • Cell abnormalities that may inhibit regeneration
  • Stem cells that are free of bacteria and viruses
  • Stem cells with the best anti-inflammatory properties

Regeneration and Replacement

The concept behind stem cells, in general, is that such cells can stimulate the growth of new supporting cells and replace cells that have already died. For patients with spinal cord injuries, the ability to replace and replicate cells could allow for the restoration of movements, including the ability to walk and get around without pain. Essentially, stem cells affect the injured area by:

  • Re-forming the insulating nerve sheath (a protective layer that increases the speed of nerve impulses)
  • Acting as a bridge across the damaged area of the spinal cord to stimulate regrowth
  • Releasing protective substances and absorbing “cell toxins” like free radicals to prevent further injury

Clinical trials involving stem cells have so far only resulted in partial recovery in patients. As testing continues on different types of stem cells, however, it’s possible that results could become even more encouraging for patients looking to return to their previous quality of life following a spinal cord injury.

If you are interested in learning more about revolutionary spine treatment options, call (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Medical Director, Dr. Hyun Bae, is a trusted surgeon who specializes in non-fusion spine surgeries in Los Angeles and has also been involved in a number of clinical trials using stem cells for spine regeneration.