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New Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

This story from describes the results of animal trials of a new spinal cord injury treatment regimen. Hopefully we're getting close at last to being able to truly help people with such injuries:

Rats with spinal cord injuries regained 70 percent of their normal walking function with a three-part treatment hailed as a breakthrough in paralysis research at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

The study at the university's Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, to be published on Monday in the June issue of the journal Nature Medicine, produced results "by far greater than what we've seen in anything else," said the principal researcher, Dr. Mary Bartlett Bunge.

"It opens up a potential new avenue of treatment for human spinal cord injury," said Bunge, who declined to speculate when human trials might be attempted...

The Miami study involved hundreds of animals with crushing injuries to the thoracic region of the spinal cord, which mainly causes loss of control of the legs and is the most common form of injury among the 243,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries, the researchers said.

They transplanted cells known as Schwann cells from the peripheral nerves, where regeneration does occur, to create a bridge across the damaged area of the spinal cord and promote the growth of axons, the nerve fibers that transmit messages...

After eight weeks, the rats that did not receive the treatment could occasionally take a halting step but could not take one step after another, Bunge said. Those that received the treatment had regained 70 percent of their walking function, "a striking improvement," Bunge said. They could step consistently, and had better fine motor control and coordination.

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