Nose cells to be used in trial to help heal damaged spinal cords

November 24, 2008

New Zealand (ChattahBox) — Otago University researchers say that individuals paralyzed by spinal cord injuries could soon get help using cells from their own noses.  Gives new meaning to the solution is right under your own nose. Research director Jim Faed, who heads the the Spinal Cord Society’s lab at Otago University, has spent five years developing laboratory methods for growing cells potentially useful for spinal cord injury repair.

His team is focusing on two promising cell types: one is a kind of adult stem cell produced by a patient’s own bone marrow.

However, researchers are likely to begin trials using olfactory (scent receptor) cells from the patient’s nose, injecting them into damaged spinal cord.

“The olfactory tissue in the nose is unique because it is the only place in the body where there is constant replacement of nerve cells throughout life,” Dr Faed said.

“There is growing medical opinion that these cells can help overcome the blocks that prevent nerve cells regenerating after damage to the spinal cord.”

The nasal tissue acts like “nurse cells”, providing growth factor hormone to nerve cells, enabling them to make “meaningful connections”.

Internationally, several research groups have done animal trials using the cells, but there has been only one human trial – in Portugal in 2006. The Otago group is in contact with Portuguese neuropathologist Carlos Lima, who pioneered that trial.

New Zealand’s Health Ministry ethics committee has given approval to the Spinal Cord Society to open the way for a clinical trial involving 12 patients, which could start next year.

Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of volunteers ready to take part.

About 5000 citizens of New Zealand are in wheelchairs as a result of accidents – the highest rate of any country in the developed world.

Dr Faed said some participants experienced side-effects, but they were “few and manageable” and none had been fatal.

Positive benefits for patients included return of some muscle function and sensation in parts of the body which previously had no feeling.

Dr Faed said the Dunedin lab hoped to get full approval for the trial before Christmas, and would then begin recruiting patients. The first 12 could start treatment next year.

Reported by: BreakThroughDigest.com


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