In an apparent major breakthrough, scientists in Korea report using umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal-cord injury patient.
The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Cythotherapy, centered on a woman had been a paraplegic 19 years due to an accident.
After an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells, stunning results were recorded:
“The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation her feet responded to stimulation.”
Umbilical cord cells are considered “adult stem cells,” in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have raised ethical concerns because a human embryo must be destroyed in order to harvest them.
The report said motor activity was noticed on day 7, and she was able to maintain an upright position on day 13. Fifteen days after surgery, she began to elevate both lower legs about one centimeter.
The study’s abstract says not only did the patient regain feeling, but 41 days after stem cell transplantation, testing “also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite” and below it.
The scientists conclude the transplantation “could be a good treatment method” for paraplegic patients.
Bioethics specialist Wesley J. Smith, writing in Lifesite.com, expressed enthusiasm about the apparent breakthrough, but also urged caution.
“We have to be cautious,” said Smith, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. “One patient does not a treatment make.”
The authors of the study note, writes Smith, that the lamenectomy the patient received might have offered some benefit.
“But still, this is a wonderful story that offers tremendous hope for paralyzed patients,” he said.
The fact that the patient has a very old injury, Smith added, makes the results even more dramatic.
Smith said he has known about the study for some time, “but because I didn’t want to be guilty of the same hyping that is so often engaged in by some therapeutic cloning proponents, I waited until it was published in a peer reviewed journal.”
Like most breakthroughs using adult stem cells, this one has been completely ignored by the U.S. mainstream media, Smith pointed out.
“Can you imagine the headlines if the cells used had been embryonic?” he asked.