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Hopeful Progress in Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries – January 28, 2011

Spinal cord injuries suffered in accidents are devastating.  According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are an estimated 1,275,000 cases of people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries, with over 50% of those resulting from either motor vehicle or work related accidents. Approximately 12,000 to 20,000 new cases occur each year.

According to the University of Alabama National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average yearly expenses can range from $228,566 to $775,567 in the first year of injury with estimated lifetime costs due to spinal cord injury ranging from $681,843 to over $3 million for a 25 year old.

Recent news has given some hope for this most devastating of traumatic injuries.

A study published yesterday in the online version of Science  reports that the cancer drug Taxol (also known generically as Paclitaxel) promotes the regeneration of injured nerve cells in the central nervous system after spinal cord injury. The scientists cautioned that more basic research is needed before clinical trials can be done, including studying whether Taxol is as effective when applied a few months post-injury.  Nonetheless, the news is promising.

This news follows the joint scientific study announced last week by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Athersys, Inc. presenting data supporting the potential therapeutic benefit of Athersys’ MultiStem(R) program for spinal cord injury. The study demonstrates for the first time that an adult stem cell is capable of modifying multiple aspects of the wound response following a spinal cord injury, concurrently altering the inflammatory response to mitigate secondary injury in the central nervous system and increasing the regenerative potential of the damaged neurons themselves.

This type of progress is fantastic news. We can only hope that scientific progress in this area continues.


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