Category: Nerves | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 23, 2014
This week we are focusing our blogs on the topic of spinal cord injuries (see our previous post on life expectancy following a spinal cord injury). In today’s blog we are going to talk about stem cells, what exactly they are, and how they can be used in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells include any type of cells in the body that are able to make other cells (they are completely unique in this function). The first stem cells that every person has are those that develop in the embryo after conception. These embryonic stem cells divide and divide until they have made up nearly all of the body’s cells. After we grow into adults, these embryonic stem cells become largely non-existent. However, adult stem cells still remain in various parts of the body, and are integral in the body’s natural healing process.
Stem Cell Therapy
So how does all of this relate to the spine? Well, scientists have been refining methods of isolating stem cells and using them to encourage nerve regrowth for some time now. Ideally, stem cells could be implanted into a patient whose spinal nerves have been damaged or severed and these cells would encourage nerve regeneration, bringing sensation and mobility back to a paralyzed patient.
That being said, stem cell therapy and research is still relatively in its infancy when it comes to spinal cord injuries. There have been, and are currently ongoing, studies testing the effectiveness of stem cell therapy and specific procedures. However, much more research and testing needs to be done before stem cell therapy can become a standard and approved practice for treating back pain and spine conditions. Hopefully stem cells will become an integral part of treating spinal cord injuries in the future, but more testing is needed.