We’ve been closely monitoring spinal cord injury research and the future is brighter than ever for real treatments for paralysis. While stem cell research is the first thing that comes to mind when many think of SCI research, it is no longer the ruler of the roost. Many other treatments and studies are providing just as much hope, and we’ve outlined our favorites below. From a new antibody treatment that limits neural damage to gene therapy that can break down scar tissue, read on for the most exciting SCI research in 2018.
1. Epidural Stimulation: A New Trial Begins in 2018
Activity-based therapy has been the real hope of the spinal cord injury world for the last few years, and for good reason. This research is showing real results in humans. It works by electrically stimulating the spinal cord via an implanted simulator, and overtime many people with paralysis report real return from the stimulation. Bladder, bowel and sexual return are the most common functions people are seeing. Some leg movement, and the ability to stand is also being reported.
The University of Louisville Kentucky, where this research was originally discovered, is launching a new human trial for 2018. This new study is seeking to recruit 36 participants. Learn more here. In addition, two other epidural stimulation human trials that are currently ongoing, the Mayo Clinic and the University of California, are ending this year with further positive results expected.
2. Asterias Stem Cell Injection: Ongoing Human Trial
Asterias Biotherapeutics has been undertaking the first in-human SCI stem cell research trial since 2012, and they’re reporting 67% of their subjects in their most recent trial have recovered two or more motor levels. This study injects each participant with 20 million embryonic stem cells that are manufactured by Asterias Biotherapeutics. Read more
3. ReNet X: Human Trials Expected in 2018
Not too long ago Stephen Strittmatter, a Yale professor, discovered and developed a molecule that can block three different inhibitors, stabilize the nervous system and promote nerve regeneration. He also created an injection with the molecule and tested it on injured animals. Within three months, a third of regained full mobility. So motivated by the results, Dr. Strittmatter formed a bio company called ReNetX Bio.
So far they’ve been able to secure millions of dollars in funding for a human trial, including $15 million from the US government and $7 million from Wings for Life. RenetX Bio hopes to start their human trial in the fall of 2018. Learn more
4. Chrondotinase Research: No Human Trials Scheduled
For over 20 years Dr. Jerry Silver of the Silver Lab at Case Western University has been researching the role of glial cells and the regeneration of nerves. He’s also done extensive research on those with chronic injuries combining Chondroitinase with peptide (a protein) to dissolve/neutralize the axons that creates the scar over the injury area.
He created an injectable medicine (which they have only tested in rats and dogs) that targets the spinal cord and delivers a Chondroitinase/peptide combo. While none of his animal studies have helped injured animals get up and run again, it has proven to successfully grow axons around the injury site and make some neural connections. This year exciting news regarding their most recent research project is expected to be announced. Read more
5. Antibody Research: Human Trials Expected in 2018
Research teams at Kyoto University and Osaka University have developed an unprecedented antibody treatment that restored almost 80% of finger function in monkeys who were paralyzed. They were able to help their hands move again by using an antibody to prevent a natural protein that blocks neural regeneration. A human clinical trial is likely to be launched sometime this year in Japan. Read more
6. Neural Graft with Stem Cells: No Human Trials Scheduled
Researchers at the University of California recently made an exciting discovery when they implanted stem cell-filled grafts into the injured area of a spinal cord into a paralyzed rat – the stem cells knew where to go and they even began to grow new neural connections. While this research is only being done in rats right now, researchers believe this discovery proves that reconnecting damage circuitry in a spinal cord after an injury is possible. Read more
7. Gene Therapy: No Human Trials Scheduled, But Promising
A new area of SCI research is gene therapy. In Australia, a research project by PhD student Jarred Griffin is being funded by the Catwalk Organization. He discovered a way to use gene therapy to deliver a protein to break down scar tissue around a spinal cord. This protein delivery system also helps regrow and reconnect nerve cells, and it can lessen the injury overall. This research is still petri-dish based however. Jarred has expressed hope that his research could one day help chronic injuries. Read more
8. Lamprey Gene Research: Early Stages
Lampreys are some of the most fascinating marine life when it comes to spinal cord injuries. Within 10 weeks, a lamprey can completely recover from a completely severed spinal cord. Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory recently concluded a study that discovered humans and lampreys share some of the same genes that take part in this repair. They found an overlap of transcription factors, which are genes that signal neural regeneration. No research yet has been discussed in humans regarding this treatment. Read more
We’re seeing some exciting additions to the possible cure for paralysis in recent years. It really is remarkable. From 2018 and beyond, we can’t see what happens next. Check in with us as well as the year progresses for updates on the above research as it it released.