The GRNOPC1 stem cell treatment was successful at restoring oligodendrocyte cells in mice.: image via blustein.tripod.comSpinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the most devastating injuries that can occur. It can affect muscle function, including respiration, transmission of messages to the brain, elimination function, heart health as well as other normal biological and physiological systems of the body and brain. This is why stem cell researchers have made spinal cord injury one of their first treatment goals. And a small trial, led by neuroscientist Hans Keirstead at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), is about to begin.
The trial will test the efficacy and safety of Geron Corporation's GRNOPC1, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells collected from among the first human stem cells ever created. The treatment plan, created by Keirstead's team at UCI, has already been successful in restoring abilities like walking and running in rats. The progenitor cells were able to recreate the oligodendrocyte structures so critical in supporting myelin that shields and insulates nerve fibers that enable electrical signals to be communicated back and forth from the spinal column to the brain.
The research team is attempting to restore some movement and/or sensation in the lower spine and legs of the spinal cord injured in their trial.
The experimental treatments, which will include a maximum of 10 patients, will be held at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and, perhaps, other centers in the U.S. The treatments are expected to be most effective in patients who were paralysed within 7 to 14 days before the trial.
About 7,800 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year due to SCI, and another estimated 4,860 die before reaching the hospital. The total estimated number of persons in the U.S. living with SCI is between 250,000 and 400,000.
Most injuries are due to motor vehicle accidents (including motor cycle falls), followed by acts of violence, falls, and sports - especially diving. Males are more often the victims of SCI than females (82% vs. 18%). The highest rate of SCI is among those between the ages of 16 and 30. Most victims are not married.
For more information about the GRNOPC1 trials, visit Geron. For more information about SCI, see the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Sources: L.A. Times Geron, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Blustein