About spinal cord injurySpinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when the spinal cord becomes damaged, most commonly, when motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence, or sporting accidents fracture vertebrae and crush or transect the spinal cord.
Damage to the spinal cord usually results in impairments or loss of muscle movement, muscle control, sensation and body system control.
Can stem cells help treat spinal cord injury?
Presently, post-accident care for spinal cord injury patients focuses on extensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitation therapies; teaching the injured person how to cope with their disability.
A number of published papers and case studies support the feasibility of treating spinal cord injury with allogeneic human umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells and autologous bone marrow-derived stem cells.
Feasibility of combination allogeneic stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury: a case report co-authored by Stem Cell Institute Founder Dr. Neil Riordan references many of them. Published improvements include improved ASIA scores, improved bladder and/or bowel function, recovered sexual function, and increased muscle control.
Which types of stem cells does the Stem Cell Institute use to treat spinal cord injury and how are they collected?
The adult stem cells used to treat spinal cord injuries at the Stem Cell Institute come from two sources: the patient’s own bone marrow (autologous mesenchymal and CD34+) and human umbilical cord tissue(allogeneic mesenchymal). Umbilical cords are donated by mothers after normal, healthy births.
A licensed anesthesiologist harvests bone marrow from both hips under light general anesthesia in a hospital operating room. This procedure takes about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Before they are administered to the patient, these bone marrow-derived stem cells must pass testing for quality, bacterial contamination (aerobic and anaerobic) and endotoxin.
All donated umbilical cords are screened for viruses and bacteria to International Blood Bank Standards.
Only a small percentage of donated umbilical cords pass our rigorous screening process.
Dr. Riordan on the Umbilical Cord Selection Process at Stem Cell Institute
“Through retrospective analysis of our cases, we’ve identified proteins and genes that allow us to screen several hundred umbilical cord donations to find the ones that we know are most effective. We only use these cells and we call them ‘golden cells’.
We go through a very high throughput screening process to find cells that we know have the best anti-inflammatory activity, the best immune modulating capacity, and the best ability to stimulate regeneration.”
Our stem cells and the US FDA
Human umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that were isolated and grown in our laboratory in Panama to create master cell banks are currently being used in the United States.
These cells serve as the starting material for cellular products used in MSC clinical trials for two Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy patients under US FDA’s designation of Investigational New Drug (IND) for single patient compassionate use. (IND 16026 DMD Single Patient)
What are the advantages of treating spinal cord injury with allogeneic human umbilical cord tissue (HUCT)-derived mesenchymal stem cells?
- Since HUCT mesenchymal stem cells are immune system privileged, cell rejection is not an issue and Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching is not necessary.
- The stem cells with the best anti-inflammatory activity, immune modulating capacity, and ability to stimulate regeneration can be screened and selected.
- Allogeneic stem cells can be administered multiple times over the course of days in uniform dosages that contain high cell counts.
- Umbilical cord tissue provides an abundant supply of mesenchymal stem cells.
- There is a growing body of evidence showing that HUCT mesenchymal stem cells are more robust than mesenchymal stem cells from other sources such as fat.
The body’s immune system is unable to recognize umbilical cord-derived mesenchmyal stem cells as foreign and therefore they are not rejected. HUCT stem cells have been administered thousands of times at the Stem Cell Institute and there has never been a single instance rejection (graft vs. host disease). Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells also proliferate/differentiate more efficiently than “older” cells, such as those found in the fat and therefore, they are considered to be more “potent”.
In this next video (just past the 1 minute mark), Arnold Caplan, PhD explains the mechanism by which donor mesenchymal stem cells shield themselves from the recipient’s immune system. Dr. Caplan is the scientist who discovered the mesenchymal stem cell. He is commonly referred to as “the father of the mesenchymal stem cell”.
How do the physicians administer these stem cells?
Our stem cell treatment protocol for spinal cord injury calls for a total of 16 injections over the course of 4 weeks.
The bone marrow-derived and umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells are both administered intravenously by a licensed physician.
They are also injected intrathecally (into the spinal fluid) by an experienced anesthesiologist. Intrathecal injection enables the stem cells to bypass the blood-brain barrier and migrate to the injury site within the spinal canal.
Spinal cord injury stem cell treatment protocol
- The standard protocol takes 4 weeks
- Medical evaluation, blood testing, and bone marrow collection
- 8 intrathecal (spinal canal) injections of expanded umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells
- 4 intravenous injections (IV) expanded umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells
- 2 intrathecal (lumbar puncture) injections of bone marrow-derived stem cells
- 2 intravenous injections (IV) bone marrow-derived stem cells (upon availability after IT injections)
- 12 physical therapy sessions (throughout stay)
- StemKine supplement (only after medical evaluation in Panama)
*Includes Hilton hotel room with breakfast, WIFI, transportation from and to the airport with VIP airport gate service and expedited customs clearance upon arrival, and transportation between the Hilton and Stem Cell Institute.
How do you follow-up with patients after they return home?
Proper follow-up is essential for us to monitor your condition after treatment. It also helps us evaluate treatment efficacy and improve our protocols based on reported outcomes over time.
Therefore, one of our medical staff will be contacting you at the following intervals: 1 month, 3 months, 4 months, and 1 year.
Do you have any successfully treated patients who would be willing to speak with me about their experiences at the Stem Cell Institute?
Yes, we do. Several of our spinal cord injury patients currently volunteer to speak with prospective patients. Your patient coordinator will be happy to put you in touch with them once your treatment evaluation has been completed.
We’ve also published written testimonials, news articles and videos from our spinal cord injury patients. Please take a look!
How do I request more information?
You may contact us by telephone 1 (800) 980-STEM (toll-free in US) and 1 (954) 358-3382.
To find out if you are eligible, apply today:
To apply for stem cell treatment, please complete this stem cell therapy patient application form.
*Please not that the above treatment outline is typical. However, actual treatment scheduling might vary slightly.