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Stem Cells from the Nose Show Promise in Repairing Spinal Cord Damage Caused by Contusion

An important new study released by a team of scientists at RhinoCyte™ Inc., Louisville, Ky., details promising results on the effectiveness of stem cells from the nose in repairing spinal cord damage resulting from the most common cause of these injuries — contusions (bruising) due to major trauma. Their study is featured in the current issue of the Journal of Neurodegeneration and Regeneration.

The study, led by Dr. Fred Roisen, could have major implication for the estimated 5 million people worldwide affected by spinal cord injuries – 1.275 million of them in the United States alone, where the cost of treatment exceeds $40.5 billion each year. Current treatment options are limited to retaining and retraining mobility only. Also, no drug therapies are currently available, but studies pertaining to stem cell treatments are showing great promise for these as well as other conditions affecting the nervous sytem.

A previous study by the group made national headlines when lab rats whose spinal cords had been partially cut in the region of the animal’s neck in a way that disabled their front right paws were able to regain significant use of their paws after being injected with stem cells from the nose.  The researchers isolated the stem cells from the olfactory neurosensory epithelium — the part of the nose that controls the sense of smell.  The cells were then injected into a group of lab rats. Twelve weeks later, these animals had regained control of their affected paws while a control group that received no cells had not.  This latest study continued that original work, by concentrating on contusions caused by blunt force trauma such as that resulting from an automobile accident or a fall.

“This is very exciting on numerous levels,” said Dr. Roisen. “As an autologous cell source — that is, the patient is both the donor and the recipient — olfactory stem cells bypass the time a patient must wait while a suitable donor is found, which can be critical to the outcome of the patient’s treatment. They also eliminate the need for immunosuppressive drugs, which have numerous negative side effects.  And just as importantly, stem cells taken from the nose of an adult do away with the ethical concerns associated with using embryonic stem cells.”

 It appears that with each new promising study, the emerging role and importance of stem cells from our own bodies becomes more and more evident in the world of regenerative medicine.  We look forward to its great promise not only for conditions affecting the spinal cord, but ones affecting our joints and spines as well.

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