Yearly Archives: 2006
DETROIT – Laura Jackson doesn’t want to wait for a cure.
Paralyzed in May 2003 while performing a backward flip in a cheerleading stunt, Laura, 16, underwent experimental surgery in China late last year and pursues therapies she and her parents, Daryl and Melody, find promising.
Her story illustrates how some people with spinal cord injuries and their families are devising their own solutions and remedies, even building expensive home gyms. Much like cancer patients and thousands of others who search abroad for cures and treatments, they face questions and skepticism from the medical establishment.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the potential to develop into any kind of tissue in the body (e.g. blood cells, heart cells, brain cells etc.) This has lead scientists to investigate the possibility of using them in regenerative medicine, a cell-based therapy to treat disease. Some regard them as offering the greatest potential for alleviation of human suffering since the development of antibiotics. Stem cells can possibly be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, traumatic spinal cord injury, heart disease, vision and hearing loss, muscular dystrophy.
Stem cell research has great promise but introduces ethical dilemmas because the research essentially involves the use of human embryos, thus life.
The hopes of many quadriplegics (like me) and otherwise injured individuals have been dashed since Korean stem-cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk, who claimed to be on track for curing spinal cord injuries among other ailments, turned out to be an apparent fraud. But I never hung all of my hopes on Hwang or stem-cell research.
That’s because scientists who study spinal cord injury, or SCI, know that it won’t be stem cells or any other single therapy that will cure paralysis.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a two-step process. The primary injury is mechanical, resulting from impact, compression or some other insult to the spinal column. The Secondary Injury is biochemical, as cellular reactions cause tissue destruction. By interrupting this second process, it may be possible to speed healing and minimize permanent effects.
In a paper published in the current issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, researchers from the Anadolu Cinar Hospital and the GATA Haydarpasa Research and Training Hospital, both in Istanbul, Turkey, found that erythropoietin improves neurological recovery, and may be more effective than the current standard treatment.