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What benefit does stem cell therapy have for spinal cord patients?

stem cell therapy discussion

What is it?

Spinal cord injury is a damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) that often causes changes in strength, sensations and other body functions below the level of the damage. There is actually no way to fully repair the spinal cord, so treatments are usually focused on preventing more damage and to mitigate symptoms.

Physical therapy also provides an excellent choice, giving patients the chance to live productive and independent lives.

Results like our patient Jeff Short are the expected outcome.


Spinal cord injury symptoms are wide and may affect a lot of systems. You can have loss of muscle strength (paraplegia or tetraplegia), bladder and bowel dysfunction, spasms, pain in your limbs, changes in your sexual function and difficulty breathing. This depends on the affected level and wether the injury is complete or incomplete.

Usually, the motor and sensory function wont improve further after six months of the injury.

Stem cell treatment

Lately, stem cell treatment have shown promise in improving the quality of life of patients suffering from spinal cord injury by improving sensory function, some motor functions (including in some cases vesicle and anal sphincter function), and also improving pain.

There are two main ways of administering the treatment: intrathecally via a lumbar puncture or intralesionially with surgery.

Both ways have been used in scientific research with promising results. Mesenchymal Stem Cells can modulate the host’s cytokine production inhibiting pro-inflamatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflamatory ones. Besides that Mesenchymal Stem Cells can secrete neurotrophic factors, preventing nerve degeneration and apoptosis (celular death) on one hand and on the other promoting generation of new neural cells and axons, re myelination (resurfacing of the axons of the neurons) and improving cell metabolism. They can also induce angiogenesis, process in which new vasculature emerges from existing vessels in the site of the injury, favouring wound healing process. These effects are the ones that produce the clinical response, mainly seen in the sensory function, but also seen in motor, bowel and bladder function.

Given the risk of any surgey, we work here with intrathecally injected Mesenchymal Stem Cells. They are applied by an expert neurosurgeon in a procedures room. Usually you wont need anesthesia, and when you do, is just locally applied. This application last’s from 20 to 30 minutos, and after that you will have to stay laying down in the clinic for at leas tan hour, trying to guarantee the cells travel all around the spinal fluid so they can reach the injury site. After this, you can go to have some rest and you will be encouraged to stay laying down for another six hours. You may fell some headache,

dizziness, sore throat or flu like symptoms after the application that usually lasts for 2 to 3 days and then goes away.

Results do not arise immediately after the first application, reason why we repeat the therapy every 3 months trying to reach four sessions in total. You may start feeling some different sensations between 3 to 6 months after the first application.

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