Intravenous injection of bone marrow-derived stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries led to significant motor functions improvement, researchers from Yale University and Japan have reported. In more than half of the patients that were studied, substantial improvements in essential functions—such as the ability to walk or to use their hands—were observed within weeks of stem cell injection, the researchers report. No substantial side effects were reported.
The stem cells were prepared using the patients’ bone marrow via a culture protocol that took a few weeks to prepare in a specialized cell processing centre. The cells were injected intravenously in this series, with each patient serving as their control. Results were not blinded, and there were no placebo controls.
In many cases, the patients had sustained non-penetrating spinal cord injuries from falls or minor trauma several weeks before implanting the stem cells. Their symptoms involved loss of motor function and coordination, sensory loss, and bowel and bladder dysfunction.