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New advances in treating spinal cord injuries with adult stem cells

  
  
  

the human spine

  • Stem cells might repair damage in a spinal cord, regenerating tissue currently considered irreparable.
  • Electrical implants are already allowing a quadriplegic to control a robotic hand with their thoughts.
  • Scientists are working on protein therapy that would keep a bad injury from becoming catastrophic.

These were just some of the advances in treating spinal cord injuries that were heralded at a symposium Wednesday at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

It was the second annual meeting of national scientists and researchers coming together in Newark to share their expertise.

The presentations show further advances since last year’s inaugural event, according to the experts.

"Everything I’m seeing here is completely different than what I learned as a medical student 25 years ago," said Robert Heary, a UMDNJ neurosurgeon.

Stem cell implantation in a dozen spinal-cord patients is underway in Switzerland, according to Aileen Anderson, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of California-Irvine who has been involved in the work, she says "stem cells advances have been moving relatively quickly."

"Cholesterol drugs took 30 years to get to market," Anderson said. "Stem cells as potential therapeutics have moved pretty quickly."

The goal:

To eventually translate these advances to human mobility, and better quality of life.

"We’ve seen mice and cats do it in the lab - now we want to see humans do it," says Steven Kirshblum, the medical director of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange.

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