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Back To The Future With Treatment For Spinal Injuries

Aug 22, 2008
A personal injury occurring to the spine is devastating. In most cases, any body part that is controlled by nerves that are below the point of injury, will never work again. On the off chance that some degree of recovery is possible, it can take years of physiotherapy to get even partial feeling back. In the main, people experiencing a devastating personal injury to the spine are advised to accept their fate. Counselling is even offered to assist people in dealing with the trauma of their injury and the devastating effects it has on their life.

Of course, the life of the injured party will never be the same again. For the patient, the inner person can change. People often change when faced with things that alter their whole outlook on life. Mobility is something we tend to take for granted until we no longer have it. On top of that, there is also the problem of depression and the sense of loss that befalls a victim of personal injury. Very often, their career will come to an abrupt halt and independent work of any sort will be difficult to obtain. Even every day personal care comes with the indignities of having to let someone else deal with them.

For the families, life also changes. The injury may not have happened to them, but the effect on their lives can be pretty profound. If the personal injury has happened to a man, his wife's life will change beyond recognition too. She will have someone else to care for other than her children and she may find herself needing to do things for him that she never thought possible. many of the things she leant on her partner to do, he will no longer be able to do. Intimate relations are often not possible and the whole caretaking responsibilities for the family are reversed, putting untold pressure on the woman. Of course, this works both ways, if it is the woman with the personal injury.

The lives of any children in the home will be changed beyond recognition. Their everyday routine is turned upside down and they very often end up becoming carers themselves.

Personal injury is far from personal. It has a much wider impact on all those who know the victim. To this end, researchers and scientists are constantly striving to find ways of repairing this so far untreatable condition.

But progress is being made in the form of stem cell studies. US researchers have used cells taken from human embryos to treat paralysed rats. The results have been so encouraging that doctors hope human trials will begin in the next two years.

Scientists believe, controversially, that embryonic stem cells have the ability to form into different types of tissue. It was possible for the scientists to manipulate these cells in a laboratory and turn them into myelin, which makes up the layer that normally surrounds nerve fibres. Once transplanted into rats that were paralysed with bruised spines, the rats were able to fully walk within weeks.

It was discovered that the transplanted cells had wrapped themselves around nerve cells, effectively replacing damaged myelin sheaths and repairing the damage done by stimulating new nerves to form.
If these results can be used on humans with recent spinal injuries then there is hope for recovery from otherwise debilitating personal injury. Unfortunately, at the moment, it is not expected that it will help those with long term or degenerative spinal cord problems.
About the Author
Health expert Catherine Harvey looks at the search for a cure for personal injury victims who are left disabled.
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