Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have already proven to offer a viable therapy in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, of which approximately 11,000 new cases occur each year in the United States alone. Worldwide, traumatic accidents involving the spinal cord constitute some of the most debilitating of injuries. Now, the Indian company Stempeutics Research, in collaboration with Manipal Hospital in Bangalore, has conducted a pilot study utilizing newly developed techniques for the administration of MSCs to patients in India, which has one of the highest rates of spinal cord injuries of any country in the world, with approximately 20,000 new cases reported each year.
According to Dr. Sujay Rao, a consulting neurosurgeon at St. Philomena’s Hospital in Bangalore, it is important to deliver the stem cells as close as possible to the physical site of injury. Injecting the MSCs via intra-arterial or intra-spinal routes, with the assisted guidance of CT (computed tomography) imaging, will maximize the efficacy of the stem cells in treating the injury. The MSCs used in the pilot study are derived from adult bone marrow and are able to differentiate into oligodendrocytes, which play a key role in the production of myelin and are an important component in the neurological system.
In the past, permanent paralysis and loss of sensation below the site of injury have usually been the result of spinal cord damage, accompanied also by loss of bladder and bowel control. As a result of this pilot study, however, a number of patients have already shown improvement from the newly developed delivery techniques. One quadriplegic patient has regained upper limb movement as well as bladder control and is now able to stand with support. Similarly, a patient who had been paraplegic is now able to walk with support and has regained bladder as well as bowel control.
A private company dedicated to the research and clinical applications of stem cells, Stempeutics currently has facilities in India and Malaysia.