How Can Stem Cell Injections Help Recovery?
In March, 2016, a young man named Kristopher Boesen, known as Kris, lost control of his car on a slippery surface and slammed into a tree and a light post. Kris woke up in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. He suffered difficulty breathing on his own and was told that he would likely never regain control of his limbs. However, last fall, Kris was able to write his own name with a pen on a piece of paper, just three months after participating in a clinical trial that featured injections of stem cells designed to reduce the size of spinal cord injury cavities and replace the coating of the nerve cells, stimulate nerve cell growth, and produce blood cells that flooded the injury site with oxygen needed for healing. The results were just one example of how research is turning to stem cell therapy in hopes of making permanent paralysis a notion of the past. It’s important to know, regenerative stem cell therapy is not just warranted as a treatment plan for catastrophic injury cases – stem cells are now being used to treat many people involved in motor vehicle accident with traditional spinal and orthopedic injuries. Stem cells have been used post-surgically to enhance recovery and improve long-term outcomes.
What Are Stem Cells?
As explained by Mayo Clinic, stem cells are cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Either in the body or in the lab, these cells can divide and form “daughter cells” that can repair or increase the ability for those specialized functions. For example, stem cells may create new brain cells, blood cells, or heart cells as needed. There are two types of stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells: These cells come from 3-5 day old embryos, which are known as a blastocyst. Blastocysts contain about 150 cells that can be used to repair tissue and organs in any part of the body. The embryos that the stem cells are harvested from come from eggs that were fertilized at in vitro fertilization clinics and are donated when they are no longer needed through informed consent from donors.
- Adult stem cells: A small number of stem cells are found in the bodies of adults, generally in the bone marrow or fat. New studies suggest that these stem cells may also be used to repair or regenerate healthy cells in the body, though their capabilities are limited when compared to embryonic stem cells.
Researchers are currently studying ways that adult stem cells can be altered to behave as embryonic cells. Additionally, researchers have discovered the presence of stem cells in amniotic fluid and cord blood, providing potential new resources for stem cells.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
The clinical trial that Kris Boesen participated in was just one of several potential new forms of stem cell therapy, which is the name given to the process of injecting stem cells into a damaged or diseased part of the body and then “programming” those cells to regenerate healthy new cells. Stem cell therapy gives patients the opportunity to heal from their injuries without the need for surgery or a long recovery time. After stem cell therapy, patients often see recovery beginning to take place within days. In the Kris Boesen study, the ability for the man to move his arms again was present within two weeks of the procedure.
The injection procedure involved in stem cell therapy takes about an hour in a medical office. The number of injections required varies depending on the patient’s age and the type and severity of his or her condition. Most patients see improvement in mobility within one to three months.
Can Stem Cell Injections Help My Recovery?
Stem cell therapy has been found to be helpful in patients suffering from a number of different injuries that may be suffered in a car accident, including:
- Torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Spinal and joint instabilities
- Herniated discs
- Other musculoskeletal conditions
The traditional treatment for injuries such as the one Kris Boesen suffered has been surgery that can stabilize the spine but does little to restore function. With approximately 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S. each year, the opportunity to heal spinal cord and other injuries through a simple injection looks promising.
Past Case Results
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