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New Spinal Repair Unit Opens

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An imminent medical breakthrough in the treatment of paralysis (Paraplegia and Tetraplegia) is anticipated in Professor Geoffrey Raisman’s lecture: Repairing the Spinal Cord: Ripples of an Oncoming Tide. This inaugural lecture will be given at 5.30 pm on Wednesday 11th January at the Wolfson Lecture Theatre, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N. This is also the official opening of the UCL Spinal Repair Unit.

The Lecture has proven to be very popular, and all tickets for it have now been allocated.

Professor Raisman’s team recently moved into the new Spinal Repair Unit at the Institute of Neurology, UCL. Their work with adult stem cells harvested from the brain’s olfactory system (which gives us our sense of taste and smell) holds out hope for the 40,000 people in the UK who are paralysed by spinal cord injury. In laboratory work the cells have repaired damage in the brain and spinal cord restoring some degree of function.

These specialised stem cells will be used in pre-clinical safety trials on a number of paralysed volunteers during 2006. At the moment plans are to operate on partially paralysed people. This will be a group who have lost movement and sensation in one arm and shoulder because the Peripheral nerves have been torn from their roots in the spinal cord (usually through motorbike accidents). If there is success with re-implanting the nerves along with these cells so that the patients have some restoration of sensation, the operation will have given some idea of effectiveness as well as safety.

The work at the Spinal Repair Unit is entirely supported by charitable donations and Spinal Research is one of the leading funders. Professor Raisman has held grants from Spinal Research since 1986 and the charity is delighted that its long-term support has helped him progress to the present position on the verge of clinical trials for spinal cord repair therapies that will revolutionise the lives of those paralysed now and in the future.

Professor Roger Lemon, Director of the Institute of Neurology and Chairman of the Spinal Research Scientific Committee said “This is an important day for Spinal Research, and represents the culmination of many years of basic research that has now led to the beginnings of a clinical treatment for spinal injury. It is also a tribute to the hard work of the many spinal injured patients and their supporters who have raised the funds that supported this research and the new UCL Unit at the Institute of Neurology.”

For more information, please contact: Carol Borwick on 01483 898786 or Simon Brookes on 020 7378 3430.

Notes to Editors:
Spinal Research focuses on finding ways to repair damaged spinal cords – something long thought impossible. Established in 1980, the charity raises money for groundbreaking projects at scientific and medical institutions around the world. In every aspect of its activities, whether in raising funds or in allocating funds to research projects, Spinal Research works in accordance with the highest scientific and ethical principles and currently receives no direct funding from the UK government.

The spinal cord, part of the Central Nervous System, cannot repair itself unaided. Spinal cord injury is about more than paralysis of the arms, legs and torso; it also affects sensation, the body’s control systems and sexual function.
The typical victim of spinal cord injury is a young, active person, often the victim of a road or sporting accident, or fall. More than 40,000 people in the UK are paralysed as a result of damage to the spinal cord, and around 700 more are added to this list every year. The average age at which paralysis occurs is young – just 19 or 20.

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