UFS Mcknight Brain Institute researchers: Pioneering spinal cord procedure appears safe

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- University of Florida researchers report in the September issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma that it is both feasible and apparently safe to implant human embryonic tissue in people with spinal cord injuries. The findings could help lay the groundwork for future efforts to treat spinal cord injury with other types of cell transplants.

In their first peer-reviewed analysis of a small pilot study that attracted international attention when it began in 1997, the scientists say that the initial two U.S. patients with spinal cord injuries to undergo the procedure have experienced no ill effects.

"We didnt set out to cure spinal cord injury in this clinical trial," said Douglas K. Anderson, chairman of the UF College of Medicines department of neuroscience and a career research scientist with the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville. "Instead, we were looking to determine whether it was feasible to transplant this tissue into the spinal cord and whether it was procedurally safe to do so. Weve found that it is."

Nine surgeries were performed on eight patients at Shands at UF medical center from July 1997 to February 2000. In two journal articles, the research team reports on how the first two patients fared during the first 18 months after transplantation. The scientists, who are based at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of UF, plan to report on the others when they have finished collecting and analyzing that data.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Richard G. Fessler, now based at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, transplanted about a teaspoonful of tissue into their spinal cords in connection with a needed operation to drain and close fluid-filled cavities that had developed after their initial injuries. The condition, called syringomyelia, is thought to occur in up to 20 percent of people with spinal cord injuries. It can cause unbearable pain and progressive loss of sens

Contact: Victoria White
University of Florida

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