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Stem cell research for spinal cord injuries receives $20 million

Maryland and Washington D.C. area residents may be interested to learn of a new $20 million grant to a state university and private company to research stem cell treatments for spinal cord injuries in the neck area. The grant will allow the university and private company to begin preparing for human testing of experimental treatments to improve or restore movement for those paralyzed through a spinal cord injury. The goal is to allow paralyzed patients to walk again however researchers anticipate more modest gains will result, at least initially.

The treatment involves injecting human neural stem cells, which transform themselves based on prompts from the body, into the neck area in hopes they travel to the injured area and begin to repair the damaged cells. A protective sheath called the myelin surrounds the nerve cells and if the treatment does what researchers think it will do, the cells will be repaired and recovery will take place. This treatment could restore body control and the ability to move in patients who have been disabled through severe spinal cord injuries.

The research will be conducted at the University of California Irvine and a Newark, California-based company called StemCells, Inc. The initial research could provide a huge advancement in restoring certain activities, such as the use of a computer or the ability to write, which could bring more independence to injured victims improving the quality of their lives.

The board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which is a group dedicated to funding stem-cell research, approved the $20 million award last week, which was part of a $150 million authorized for similar studies. An earlier treatment for chronic spinal cord injury victims, which was developed by the same research group at UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, is now being used in treatments for human patients in Switzerland. This treatment has been found to be safe in the first group to receive it.

Spinal cord injuries are all too often the result of car accidents and other types of serious accidents that cause severe trauma to the head, neck or back. The costs for treating paralyzed victims along with the expenses involved in the daily care of these patients can be a tremendous challenge for both victims and their families. In cases involving serious injuries causing permanent disabilities, victims may wish to pursue a personal injury claim to help meet medical expenses, as well as the ongoing care and rehabilitation costs associated with their particular injuries.

Source: Orange County Register, "Stem cells for neck injury: $20 million," Pat Brennan, July 27, 2012

We are a personal injury law firm serving accident victims who suffer serious injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, in the Fairfax, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland areas.

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