It looks like 2017 could be a very promising year for the use of stem cell-based therapy in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.
After a 6 month trial on six patients with severe cervical spinal injuries, California- based stem cell company; Asterias Biotheraputics, has reported an improvement of motor levels of all five of the evaluable patients that received a 10- million cell dose of AST-OPC1 cells.
AST-OPC1 cells are oligodendrocyte progenitors which can become various kinds of nerve cell, helping to protect the nerve cells in the central nervous system – the area damaged by spinal cord injury.
To date there is no effective treatment to restore spinal cord function after severe spinal injury. Spinal cord injuries often damage neurons and supporting cells that wrap and insulate neurons. Research is focusing on finding a way that stem cells can replace neurons, and their supporting cells, to improve the patient’s chance of regaining function.
Five of six total patients (one didn’t complete the 6 month follow up), saw their motor levels rise by at least one grade on at least one side, as measured by the International Standards Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury scale.
One patient saw a rise of two levels on both sides, and one saw a rise of two levels on one side.
The success of the trial is a significant step towards making the therapy available to patients with spinal injuries. Although randomized test trials must first be completed.
Asterias CEO Steve Cartt said in a statement:
“These results to date are quite encouraging, and we look forward to initiating discussions with the FDA in mid-2017 to begin to determine the most appropriate clinical and regulatory path forward for this innovative therapy,”
Late last year Asterias announced that they had given the the first patient in the clinical trial the highest dose of 20 million cells, a dosage where they expect to see optimal clinical improvement.
The patient had been treated in an earlier stage of the trial. Patients who took part in the study needed to have had a severe neck injury in the past 30 days, and have no sensation or movement below their level of injury.
If research continues to show positive results, pending further clinical trials, it is hoped that this treatment will be available to treat patients in the immediate aftermath of a spinal injury.
Last year Ajan Reginald, reported on the positive outcome of research using human embryogenic stem cells to alleviate spinal cord injury in mice.