A systematic survey of the scientific literature shows that stem cell therapy can have a statistically significant impact on animal models of spinal cord injury, and points the way for future studies.
Spinal cord injuries are mostly caused by trauma, often incurred in road traffic or sporting incidents, often with devastating and irreversible consequences, and unfortunately having a relatively high prevalence (250,000 patients in the USA; 80% of cases are male). High-profile campaigners like the late actor Christopher Reeve, himself a victim of sports-related spinal cord injury, have placed high hopes in stem cell transplantation.
But how likely is it to work?
This question is addressed in a paper published 17th December in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Ana Antonic, David Howells and colleagues from the Florey Institute and the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Malcolm MacLeod and colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Stem cell therapy aims to use special regenerative cells (stem cells) to repopulate areas of damage that result from spinal cord injuries, with the hope of improving the ability to move ("motor outcomes") and to feel ("sensory outcomes") beyond the site of the injury. Many studies have been performed that involve animal models of spinal cord injury (mostly rats and mice), but these are limited in scale by financial, practical and ethical considerations. These limitations hamper each individual study's statistical power to detect the true effects of the stem cell implantation.
This new study gets round this problem by conducting a "meta-analysis" – a sophisticated and systematic cumulative statistical reappraisal of many previous laboratory experiments. In this case the authors assessed 156 published studies that examined the effects of stem cell treatment for experimental spinal injury in a total of about 6000 animals.
Overall, they found that stem cell treatment results in an average improvement of about 25% over the post-injury performance in both sensory and motor outcomes, though the results can vary widely between animals. For sensory outcomes the degree of improvement tended to increase with the number of cells introduced – scientists are often reassured by this sort of "dose response", as it suggests a real underlying biologically plausible effect.
The authors went on to use their analysis to explore the effects of bias (whether the experimenters knew which animals were treated and which untreated), the way that the stem cells were cultured, the way that the spinal injury was generated, and the way that outcomes were measured. In each case, important lessons were learned that should help inform and refine the design of future animal studies. The meta-analysis also revealed some surprises that should provoke further investigation – there was little evidence of any beneficial sensory effects in female animals, for example, and it didn't seem to matter whether immunosuppressive drugs were administered or not.
The authors conclude: "Extensive recent preclinical literature suggests that stem cell-based therapies may offer promise; however the impact of compromised internal validity and publication bias means that efficacy is likely to be somewhat lower than reported here."
Potential "Biological Insurance"
For decades, doctors have harnessed the unique ability of stem cells to treat leukemia and genetic blood diseases. But now, researchers are discovering that these cells have the power to heal, to fight disease, and to regenerate damaged or aging tissue throughout the body. To fully understand why they hold the potential to change your child’s medical future, get to know more about stem cells.
Stem Cell Basics
Ordinary cells in your body replicate to make new cells of the same type - blood cells make more blood cells, skin cells make more skins cells and so on. However, there is another type of cell, called a stem cell.
Stem cells are able to repair or replace damaged tissue. This is why scientists and doctors are so excited about the growing role of stem cells to treat disease, injury, and the deterioration of tissue due to aging. Amazingly, after our birth and into adulthood, we keep a store of these stem cells in certain parts of our body.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Different types of stem cells exist in different body tissues, and in varying concentrations. One of the most well-understood and widely researched types of stem cells is the mesenchymal stem cell.
Mesenchymal stem cells can form tissues such as bone, nerve, muscle, and blood vessels. They also help body tissue to repair itself, and they play an important role in healing by suppressing inflammation.
Though located in a number of places in the body, mesenchymal stem cells can be found in especially high concentrations in the healthy dental pulp of teeth.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells From Teeth Have Helped Paralyzed Animals Walk Again.
Diseases and injury to the nervous system affect millions of people of all ages, and scientists are actively exploring the use of stem cells to re-grow or repair nerve tissues and cells (a process known as neuroregeneration).
Today there is no cure for spinal cord injury, a misfortune that can strike at a moment’s notice with devastating effect on the person injured as well as their family.
Researchers have been studying the use of stem cells to treat spinal cord injury for many years. Recently, a research team at Nagoya University in Japan demonstrated that stem cells from teeth – both baby teeth and wisdom teeth – helped heal spinal cord injuries in rats and even restored some ability to walk. Another important finding: the stem cells from teeth worked better than stem cells from bone marrow.
Younger Is Better
Over time, even stem cells succumb to the environmental “insults” that age all of our cells. Freezing cells in a youthful state preserves their future ability to generate replacement tissue and heal the body.
All of these attributes make stem cells the cornerstone of the emerging field of treatments and therapies called Regenerative Medicine.
You can now bank on them
Store-A-Tooth is a simple service that takes that wisdom tooth or baby tooth that would be thrown out as biological waste by your dentist and banks it for you for the future.
Find out more: http://www.store-a-tooth.com/why-bank-stem-cells