Injecting a patient's own bone marrow-derived stem cells into the spinal column using multiple routes can be an effective treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI), say researchers.
Scientists from DaVinci Biosciences, Costa Mesa, California, and Hospital Luis Vernaza in Ecuador say that such a treatment can return some quality of life for SCI patients without serious adverse events.
Revealing their findings in the journal Cell Transplantation, the researchers said that they administered bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMCs) directly into the spinal column, spinal canal and intravenously to eight patients with SCI-four acute and four chronic.
They revealed that the patients were followed for two years using MRI imaging to assess morphological changes in the spinal cord.
"Our objective in this study was to demonstrate that multiple route administration of BMCs for SCI is safe and feasible. To date, we have administered BMCs into 52 patients with SCI and have had no tumor formations, no cases of infection or increased pain, and few instances of minor adverse events. We also found that patient quality of life improved," said corresponding author Dr. Francisco Silva.
Spinal cord injury affects millions globally, and presently there is no cure or effective treatment for this disorder.
"Autologous stem cell transplantation of BMCs can promote the growth of blood vessels and, therefore, represent an alternative therapy," said Dr. Silva.
Following primary trauma to the adult spinal cord there is evidence of haemorrhage and blood flow is attenuated, he said.
The researcher further points out that the disruption of blood flow leads to spinal cord infarction, the disruption of the blood-spinal cord injury barrier, swelling and the release of molecules influencing spinal cord perfusion and ischemia, a restriction in blood supply.
"BMCs are well known for their ability to grow blood vessels. This angiogenesis is necessary for wound healing and establishing a growth permissive environment. We hypothesized that improved blood flow and oxygen supply could contribute to functional improvements for SCI transplanted with autologous BMCs," said Dr. Silva.
He revealed that several functional improvements, most importantly improved bladder control, were observed in the eight patients who received BMC transplants through various routes, and were followed for two years.
The researchers observed that one of their cases suffered a gunshot wound, and that their study marked the first time a gunshot wound victim had received BMC transplants through multiple routes.
"It is important to note that all of our patients with acute injuries improved significantly with no signs of deterioration or impediment of presumed spontaneous recovery," concluded Dr. Silva.
Dr. Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, a spinal cord researcher at the University of South Florida, said that the new study showed the value of using several different simultaneous routes for the administration of stem cells, as well as the benefit of the cells themselves.
"While it would be interesting to know the respective contribution of each route of administration, this study does appear to support the need to move to carry out double blind clinical trials of BMCs in SCI, especially if a non-invasive route could be used," Dr. Garbuzova-Davis added.