Adult Stem Cell Therapy Successfully Treats Spinal Cord Injury

An interesting spinal cord injury study was published last week. The Turkish researchers tested two types of stem cells on spinal cord injured mice. The two cell types were native bone marrow cells and cultured repair stem cells called Mesenchymal stem cells. Native bone marrow cells contain bone marrow forming stem cells as well as a small number of Mesenchymal stem cells.

After injuring the spinal cords, the stem cells were implanted at the site of the injury. The control mice that received no cells had no improvement in neural activity. The mice that received both cell types had improved neural activity. The cultured Mesenchymal stem cell group improved significantly more than the native bone marrow stem cell group.

Stem Cell Rev. 2012 May 3. [Epub ahead of print]
Stem Cell Therapy in Spinal Cord Injury: In Vivo and Postmortem Tracking of Bone Marrow Mononuclear or Mesenchymal Stem Cells.
Ozdemir M, Attar A, Kuzu I, Ayten M, Ozgencil E, Bozkurt M, Dalva K, Uckan D, Kılıc E, Sancak T, Kanpolat Y, Beksac M.

School of Medicine, Department of Neurosurgery, Pamukkale University, 20070, Kinikli, Denizli, Turkey,

The aim of this study was to address the question of whether bone marrow-originated mononuclear cells (MNC) or mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) induce neural regeneration when implanted intraspinally.

The study design included 4 groups of mice: Group 1, non-traumatized control group; Groups 2, 3 and 4 spinal cord traumatized mice with 1 g force Tator clips, which received intralesionally either no cellular implants (Group 2), luciferase (Luc) (+) MNC (Group 3) or MSC (Group 4) obtained from CMV-Luc or beta-actin Luc donor transgenic mice. Following the surgery until decapitation, periodical radioluminescence imaging (RLI) and Basso Mouse Scale (BMS) evaluations was performed to monitor neural activity. Postmortem immunohistochemical techniques were used to analyze the fate of donor type implanted cells.

All mice of Groups 3 and 4 showed various degrees of improvement in the BMS scores, whereas there was no change in Groups 1 and 2. The functional improvement was significantly better in Group 4 compared to Group 3 (18 vs 8, p = 0.002). The immunohistochemical staining demonstrated GFP(+)Luc(+) neuronal/glial cells that were also positive with one or more of these markers: nestin, myelin associated glycoprotein, microtubule associated protein or myelin oligodendrocyte specific protein, which is considered as indicator of donor type neuronal regeneration. Frequency of donor type neuronal cells; Luc + signals and median BMS scores were observed 48-64 % and 68-72 %; 44-80 %; 8 and 18 within Groups III and IV respectively.

MSCs were more effective than MNC in obtaining neuronal recovery. Substantial but incomplete functional improvement was associated with donor type in vivo imaging signals more frequently than the number of neuronal cells expressing donor markers in spinal cord sections in vitro. Our results are in favor of functional recovery arising from both donor MSC and MNCs, contributing to direct neuronal regeneration and additional indirect mechanisms.

“The fight to walk” – spinal cord injury patient improving after stem cell therapy in Panama


Daniel Leonard working out at physical therapy

Published March 31, 2012
By Sue Guinn Legg – Press Staff Writer

Daniel Leonard is doing all he can to walk again, and after a recent course of stem cell treatment he’s as close as he has been since a few months after the 2005 injury that put him a wheelchair.

He was 22 years old and about to begin his third year of college when he woke up one August morning on the floor at his family’s Johnson City home unable to move and struggling to breathe.

While the cause of his injury remains a mystery, what is known is that three vertebrae near the top of his spine had been crushed, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, on a ventilator and not expected to never walk or even breathe on his own again.

Six months after undergoing surgery to remove the bone fragments from his spinal cord, Leonard, who had played several sports in high school and was boxing at the Johnson City Athletic club prior to his injury, was exceeding all expectations.

In treatment at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville, he was not only breathing independently, he was pulling himself up on parallel bars and being fitted with leg braces to help him take his first steps.

Then the unthinkable happed, again. Because there had been nothing done to stabilize his damaged vertebrae, his spine collapsed at the site of his injury and all of his progress was lost.

“I worked my butt off to get to the point I was about to start walking,” he said. But the gains he had made in upper body strength were erased and there was no longer any movement in his legs.

After a second surgery to fuse the bones, his condition was labeled as “incomplete paraplegia” characterized by limited movement and sensation in all the muscles below his neck and none at all in his legs. Doctors told his family he would never be able to move his legs, and for many years he could not.

For a while, he lived independently with the assistance of a caregiver. When his caregiver left, he moved to a nursing home, expecting to stay only long enough to find another place and another caregiver. But without money to finance that plan, months turned into years and the Four Oaks Health Care Center in Jonesborough became his home for the long term.

Early last year, things took a turn for the better when for reasons unknown he began to regain some movement in his legs. Encouraged, Leonard once again threw all his effort into physical therapy. In October, he began working out regularly with Amy Caperton, a personal trainer at the Tri-Cities Lifestyles fitness center in Johnson City, and coupled that with physical therapy at the new Mountain States Rehabilitation Center.

His family, who had long believed stem cell treatment would provide his best chance at recovery, stepped up their efforts to pay for the treatment.

His sister, Rachael Leonard, a business consultant who had been following the progress of stem cell research and exploring treatment options since a few days after Daniel was injured, zeroed in on The Stem Cell Institute, a reputable facility in Panama founded by Neil Riordan PhD, that concentrates on treatment of spinal cord injuries, muscular sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

His mother and siblings pooled their resources and came up with about half the $45,000 needed for the $35,000 cost of his first four-week course of treatment and travel expenses for Daniel, Rachel and their mother, Diane, to make the trip to Panama.

The balance was raised through a series of small benefits — dinners at area restaurants, a concert and an auction, and through many individual gifts and online contributions to Daniel’s fundraising page,

“People we know around here and businesses were very generous and there was a lot of money raised,” his mother said.

To clear up any misconceptions about the treatment, the family emphasized to everyone interested that the stem cells used at the institute come from umbilical cords donated by new parents and the patients’ own bone marrow and referred them to for specifics.

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do with their own bodies, but for me, if it had been kill a baby to walk again, there’s no way I would have,” Daniel Leonard said.

The family finally made it to Panama in February. The treatment began with two weeks of daily cord blood cell injections into his spinal fluid and two hours of “intense interval” therapy that requires Leonard to work his muscles as hard as possible for one minute, rest for two minutes and repeat the process over the course of an hour.

“One hour is what they do, but with what I had been doing with Amy already, I thought I needed more,” he said.

The injections were painful and the workouts exhausting, so Leonard was relieved when Panama’s annual carnival week celebration gave him a week of rest before the treatment resumed with another two weeks of daily injections of cells drawn from his hip bones.

On the second day of his fourth week of treatment, Leonard experienced his first noticeable improvement when he flexed the right calf muscle he had not been able to move in years. The following day he felt himself contracting the pectoral muscles in his chest.

Day by day he’s regaining strength and there have been many small, but encouraging, gains that have also been obvious to caregivers. At Four Oaks, his aides are changing the way they handle things. While transferring Leonard from bed to a chair, it’s easier for them to raise him to his feet to pivot, which can now be done with one person’s assistance rather than two.

“These are all little things, but they are huge for us,” Leonard said.

Caperton, who with help from a client at Lifestyles spent a few days in Panama learning all she could from doctors and therapists at the institute, is equally encouraged.

“I am trying to be objective, but I must say he is making drastic improvements and it excites me,” she said.

The next six months before the stem cells die hold Leonard’s greatest opportunity for improvement, and continuing his physical training will play a critical role in the treatment’s effectiveness.

Optimum recovery will come with repeat treatments, and the fundraising for Leonard’s next trip to Panama is under way. There’s a three-on-three basketball tourney being planned at the Lifestyles center, and Leonard is searching for a local business to put up a prize worthy of the tournament’s entry fee.

He’s inviting everyone to follow his progress at his Facebook page, Daniel Leonard Search for a Cure ( And for anyone who wishes to help, online donations may be made at

Donations to the “Daniel Leonard Search for a Cure Fund” can also be made at any First Tennessee Bank location or by mail to First Tennessee Bank, 1500 W. State of Franklin Road, Johnson City, TN 37604.

“Hopefully, with the next treatment I’ll be able to stand,” he said. “I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to see the results.”

Umbilical cord stem cells may lead to new spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis treatments

Researchers in Florida have accomplished converting umbilical cord stem cells into other cell types. According to University of Central Florida bioengineer James Hickman, it’s the first time that non-embryonic cells have accomplished this feat. His research group published this work in the January 18th issue of ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Two major benefits of umbilical cord-derived stem cells are that they have not been shown to cause adverse immune system reactions and they pose no ethical issues since they come from a source that would be naturally discarded anyway.

Hedvika Davis, a post-doc researcher and lead author of the paper, had to search for the right chemical to coax the stem cells into becoming oligodendrocytes, which are cells that insulate nerves residing in the brain and spinal cord.

Other researchers had already shown that oligodendrocytes bind with a hormone called norepinephrine and Davis theorized that this could be the key. So she used norepinephrine and other growth factors to induce the cells to differentiate into oligodendrocytes. The only problem was that the cells were not sufficiently developed as they would be in the body.

So Davis devised a novel approach of approximating the body’s environment in the lab. By growing the cells on top of a slide, with another slide on top, Davis was able to simulate a 3-dimensional environment and grow mature oligodendrocytes.

Because oligodendrocytes produce myelin, researcher believe that this discovery might lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and diabetic neuropathy.

Fall Seminar 2015 – Dallas-Fort Worth

Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Orthopedics and Human Diseases
Saturday, October 10th from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square
1400 Plaza Place
Southlake, Texas 76092

Dr. Riordan and Dr. McKenna 300x250

Join us for informational presentions by:

Neil Riordan, PA, PhD – Founder, Riordan-McKenna Institute / Stem Cell Institute

Why Stem Cells Work: Clinical Trials for Spinal Cord Injury, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Wade McKenna, DO – Founder, Riordan-McKenna Institute

Potential of Stem Cells to Enhance Surgical and Non-Surgical Outcomes in Sports Injuries and Orthopedic Procedures

Roger Nocera, MD – Author, Cells That Heal Us From Cradle to Grave

Cells That Heal Us From Cradle to Grave

Our speakers will be on hand afterwards for a meet and greet. Light snacks will be served.

Admission is free but space is limited. All attendees must register.

Eventbrite - Riordan-McKenna Institute Stem Cell Seminar

For more information contact:

Dusty Taylor
Riordan-McKenna Institute
+1 (817) 776-8155


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