The Japanese government has officially authorized the use of stem cells and therapies at their base to treat spinal injuries and paralysis after successfully completing the first clinical trials. It is reported by the news service of the journal Nature.
Damage to the spine leads to partial or complete paralysis of the limbs, depending on the location of the injury. To date, scientists are developing several treatments for such injuries. Many biologists try to use stem cells to reconnect between parts of the spinal cord. There are fundamentally different methods – connecting limbs to the brain using electrodes.
Initially, scientists had high hopes for using so-called MSC cells to combat such problems. They are “adult” stem cells that are present in small quantities in all human organs and retain the ability to transform into many types of tissue.
Despite the first successes in animal experiments, MSC cells today acquired controversial status due to the low healing efficiency of damaged tissues and the lack of their ability to transform into neurons and some other types of cells.
Moreover, their discoverers proposed to remove the word “stem” from their name, a year ago, as it misleads people and contributes to the spread of therapies of questionable effectiveness that have not been fully tested.
Such concerns, as noted by Nature, did not prevent the approval of one of these methods of treatment in Japan after the completion of clinical trials, in which 13 Japanese citizens participated, who had recently been involved in an accident or had a spinal injury in some other way.
Honma and his colleagues removed part of the MSC cells from the bone marrow of volunteers, multiplied them and inserted them into the blood vessels in the damaged part of the spine. According to doctors, this procedure has increased the sensitivity of the limbs of their wards to various stimuli and somewhat improved their muscle control.
The reason for this, was that stem cells according to Japanese researchers, could replace some of the dead neurons, as well as prevent the death of other nerve fibers, suppressing inflammation and producing a number of molecules that put them in an “energy-saving” mode.
According to Nature, such statements about the appearance of new neurons and the absence of double-blind clinical trials lead other biologists to doubt that the Honmu team has indeed achieved positive results.
Officials of the relevant departments, however, did not consider this a serious problem and allowed the scientists from Sapporo to sell such therapy to everyone. Using data collected during such experiments, Honmu and his colleagues must prove the effectiveness of their development over the next seven years.