SCI Research ~ 9/26/17

I am praying for that miracle of healing. It may come in many forms. Read below for recent research projects.


X ~~–was-lost

Discover Magazine (October 2017) ran an update on “S” below, the USC Keck doctors who implanted stem cells in Kris Boesen and helped him regain movement in his hands – essentially helping him regain 2 levels of his spinal cord functioning. One must subscribe to Discover to see the full article.

W ~~

“In the near future, Herr and his colleagues at the MIT center are committed to, among other things, reversing paralysis. Herr’s goal is to develop a synthetic spinal cord that 
aids the damaged original. A prosthesis, in other words.” Herr is Dr. Hugh Herr of MIT. He’s a double amputee who invented his own new legs that work so well, he wouldn’t want his original ones back, he said. He has a team of 40 at MIT working on paralysis. He actually called curing paralysis “low hanging fruit” in that it can be cured in 10-20 years, not 50. Hope remains.

V ~~

This may seem like science fiction but it’s real. A Brazilian researcher has parplegic patients moving their legs by using their brains to power machines which move their legs or other body parts. This works for those years after their SCI. The most surprising part was that those who continued the training also could feel again below their level of injury, moved their legs on their own, and regained ‘quality of life’ functions.

U ~~

ReWalk, Indego, and OttoBack are beginning to make inroads into SCI markets but the prices are challenging to say the least. Insurance companies put up a fight and rarely support them financially. Psychological and physical benefits have been documented. Others are working to develop or piggyback on research in other areas.

T ~~

CBS This Morning highlighted a man, working with Case Western, moving his arm/hand and feeding himself. Electrodes were implanted in his brain and arm so his thoughts could control his hand. He ate several things, including mashed potatoes. Hoping to see more details forthcoming.

S ~~

Paralyzed man receives stem cells injected directly into his cervical spinal cord. He now, 90 days out, has use of his arms and hands. The research is occurring at Keck Medical Center, USC, CA. Stem cells (10 million AST-OPC1) must be inserted 14-30 days post injury.

R ~~

Paralyzed monkeys are now walking using a brain-spine interface based on Swiss researchers. Many components are already approved for use in humans. The researchers are now moving toward clinical trials of humans.

Q ~~

Let’s hear it for zebrafish and Duke researchers! It seems zebrafish can regenerate their own severed spinal cords. Researchers have isolated a protein, CTGF, that humans also have, which conducts that work. It seems mammals (rats) will be next but any progress in SCI research is welcomed.

P ~~

German researchers are finding success with nerve regeneration for injured pathways. The work is being tested on mice first. Read the encouraging details in Researchers activate repair program for nerve fibers.

O ~~

More hope from Stem Cell Research. This procedure must happen soon after the accident but it has helped a quad regain use of his arms and hands soon after implanting the stem cells. Click the link above to learn the details.

N ~~

Excellent summary of stem cell research as related to SCI. This article reviews research around the world (including Switzerland, Calgary, San Diego, and Miami). It shows where the clinic trials are happening and what to avoid, including questions to ask one’s own doctor. Excellent review.

M ~~

A group of researchers from sights at U of Michigan, U of MN, Ontario Canada, and U. of Utah are conducting a study on Neurogenic Bladder Research (NBRG) due to SCI. If you are interested in participating in the study, click the link above. The sight does include information on treatments and will share research findings. The goal of NBRG is to improve patient care through application of patient centered outcomes research. Their mission is to optimize quality of life, surgical outcomes, and clinical care of patients with neurogenic bladder while becoming the premier collaborative research organization in neuro-urology.

L ~~

Amazingly exciting. This story involves a man, 6 years post accident, who had a chip implanted into his brain and is now able to command his arm and fingers in a variety of tasks. New Hope for the Paralyzed is how the Wall Street Journal headed their article on this.


For decades, it was thought that scar-forming cells called astrocytes were responsible for blocking neuronal regrowth across the level of spinal cord injury, but recent findings challenge this idea. According to a new mouse study, astrocyte scars may actually be required for repair and regrowth following spinal cord injury.

Source: Science Daily. New role identified for scars at the site of injured spinal cord: Mouse study suggests scar formation may help, not hinder, nerve regrowth

J ~~

UC San Diego researcher, Mark Tuszynski, has successfully used stem cells to repair damaged spinal cords in rats. Ok, not quite ready yet for  humans but it is progress for SCI individuals. Tuszynski noted, “now that we can regenerate the most important motor system for humans, the potential for translation is more promising.” Read about it.

I ~~

Kalamazoo SCI (C-5) 23 year old man involved in clinical trial for stem-cell treatment to his damaged area. Surgery was done at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago and is one of three hospitals where the trial has been conducted. Optimal patients are 18-65 old and treatment done 14-30 days post injury. Asterias Biotherapeutics, a San Francisco Bay-area biotechnology company, develops the cells and is sponsoring the study.

H ~~

Such exciting work coming out of Dr. Susan Harkema’s research. See video of the first four men paralyzed from the chest down stand on their own! Learn of their improved quality of life. Electrical stimulator implants are making quite a difference.

G ~~

Indego Exoskeletal~ This isn’t quite ‘sliced bread’ but well worth investigating what’s coming down the line. Five outstanding Research Rehab hospitals are involved in the research and trials.

F ~~

InVivo Neuro-Spinal Scaffold – Implanted in 2 SCI people. Their story covered on Today Show, June 4, 2015 (above)

More information at the InVivo Website:

“The Neuro-Spinal Scaffold is designed to be placed inside a contusion cavity within the spinal cord to promote appositional healing which could spare white matter and promote healing, potentially enabling patients to regain lost neurologic function. In order to do this, a durotomy is performed followed by incision of the pia and myelotomy to obtain internal decompression. This procedure follows standard laminectomy, spinal realignment and whatever else is required per standard of care prior to placement of the investigational Neuro-Spinal Scaffold.”

Again from InVivo’s website, May 14, 2015 Press Release:

“About the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold
Following an acute spinal cord injury, the biodegradable Neuro-Spinal Scaffold is surgically implanted at the epicenter of the wound and is designed to act as a physical substrate for nerve sprouting. Appositional healing to spare spinal cord tissue, decreased post-traumatic cyst formation, and decreased spinal cord tissue pressure have been demonstrated in preclinical models of spinal cord contusion injury. The Neuro-Spinal Scaffold, an investigational device, has received a Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) designation and is currently being studied in an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) pilot study for the treatment of patients with complete (AIS A) traumatic acute spinal cord injury.”

E ~ ~

Case Western Reserve scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound, which the researchers dubbed intracellular sigma peptide (ISP), allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested.

D ~ ~



Dr. Susan Harkema at U of Louisville & UCLA research, four SCI men regain movement & secondary benefits after implant of epidural stimulator.

1) Interview with Katie Couric and 2) Q/A with Dr. Harkema.

As Joel said, in our opinion Dr. Susan Harkema is a rock star.

C ~ ~

Paralyzed patients have been given new hope of recovery after rats with severe spinal injuries walked again through a ‘groundbreaking’ new cyborg-style implant. French scientist, heralded by British researchers.

B ~ ~

A paralyzed Polish man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. Surgeons in Poland worked in collaboration with British scientist.

A ~ ~

Chinese scientists report that they fixed a completely cut spinal cord in lab animals. Rats with 2mm gaps removed from their spinal cords (at T10) recovered significantly when a special scaffold seeded with engineered stem cells was implanted at the injury site.




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