Russian scientists conduct successful stem cells experiment to cure spinal cord ruptures

A spinal trauma dooms a lot of people to spend the rest of their lives in bed or on a wheelchair

One may say that the year 2004 was the year of the cell. Scientists paid a lot of  attention to this tiny, albeit extremely important object of human life. Both Russian and foreign researchers are especially interested in mysterious stem cells that replace worn-out or sick cells of any organs and tissues. If scientists learn to multiply stem cells and use them as a universal and safe remedy, it will be a sensational discovery in the scientific world.

Specialists of the Russian State Medical University conducted one of most exciting experiments of 2004. The work was carried out within the scope of the “Stem Cells” scientific program. Scientists explored the ability of stem cells to treat spinal injuries. Tens of thousands of Russian people and over a million people worldwide suffer from such serious injuries ever year. A spinal trauma dooms a lot of people to spend the rest of their lives in bed or on a wheelchair.

Within the scope of the experiment, Russian scientists modeled a severe spinal rupture for 60 rats. Stem cells in polymer gel were injected in the place of rupture for 24 rats; only polymer gel was injected with another group of rats and the third group was left intact without any operations.

”A certain result of the stem cell operation could be visible already in two months. We could see that the majority of animals, which were injected with stem cells, were recovering from the spinal rupture,” the senior specialist of the experiment, Alexander Etinger said.

The effect was different: some rats could bend their rear paws, others could even clear obstacles, whereas several rats could only make involuntary movements. All these facts proved that stem cells had replaced the killed spinal cells. As a result, scientists obtained the firm evidence in the opposition with those specialists, who criticize and reject the idea of using stem cells in medicine. Such skeptic sentiments are easy to understand: modern science does not have a precise notion of stem cells, their principles and functions. Scientists still cannot explain how stem cells work and what influence they exert on a human organism.

Six spinal patients of one of Russian private clinics agreed to participate in a special experiment, which was based on the above-mentioned method. Patients' own stem cells were injected in the place of spinal cord rupture. A positive result was registered with five of the volunteers: they could feel their legs, even move them a little, pelvic organs retrieved their functions too. The operation became very successful for a young disabled man, who could not move his legs at all for several years. The man started wiggling his toes in two months after the operation; now he can stand up and move with the help of support gear. The young man's progress is definitely not a miraculous recovery, which may give other disabled people a hope to stand up and walk again. The accomplishment, however, has become a firm step ahead in the treatment of the trauma, which was previously considered incurable and hopeless. “We are absolutely sure that one has to continue working in this direction. The result will definitely be achieved,” the chairman of the scientific board of the “Stem Cells” program, Vladimir Yarigin said.

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Author`s name Olga Savka