Stem Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

What Is Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is a long, tube-like neural tissue that transmits motor nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body and sensory  – from the body to the brain. The cord is well protected by the bony vertebrae and intervertebral discs from all sides. An accident or trauma to the spine can become a major cause of spinal cord injury, which causes bony fragments or discs to compress or even lacerate the spine. This leads to disruption of nervous pathways and failure of motor and sensory impulse conduction. As a result, the patient has paresis/plegia and sensory disturbances below the zone of injury, as well as bladder and intestine problems.

Stem Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

According to a recent study, about 17% of all traumatic accidents result in spinal cord injuries, with in-hospital mortality as high as 15%. There are more than 20.6 million people affected by spinal cord injury, and 17500 cases of spinal cord injury are reported every year. The level of injury determines the severity of disability following spinal cord injury. A loss of sensation or weak muscle paralysis in one or both lower limbs may occur from an incomplete thoracic spine injury. A complete cervical spine injury can cause permanent loss of movement and feeling in all four limbs.

Although up to 75% of patients show some recovery in one year, there are still about 25% of patients who have ongoing disabilities. The first choice for managing spinal cord injuries is surgery. This involves decompression and debris removal from the fracture site and spinal cord. Treatment is also offered with drugs including methylprednisolone succinate (currently its efficacy and safety in spinal cord injury is debated) and naloxone. An important part of further treatment is rehabilitation.

However, lots of people do not reach the final endpoints of the treatment and are confined to a wheelchair. Stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury is a new hope for these patients.

How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work for Spinal Cord Injury?

Multipotent stem cells can differentiate into any kind of cell in the body, which is why they are considered a prospective approach to treating all kinds of medical conditions. The stem cells can be obtained from different sources and include:

  • Embryonic (from in vitro fertilization embryos)
  • Fetal (aborted fetus – fetal hematopoietic, fetal mesenchymal, neural crest cells)
  • Perinatal (after the birth of a child, also considered an adult cells) – umbilical cord, placenta-derived, amniotic fluid-derived
  • Adult (hematopoietic, mesenchymal, neural, epithelial, hepatic, pancreatic, adipose-derived etc)
  • Stem cells can also be obtained due to transdifferentiation (cultivation with different growth factors) – induced pluripotent stem cells (adult stem cells, transdifferentiated to the condition close to embryonic), neural stem cells (transdifferentiated from the bone marrow stem cells), etc.

At Swiss Medica, we only use adult mesenchymal stromal cells, avoiding both possible adverse effects and ethical issues usually associated with embryonic and fetal cells.

The results of clinical trials (in total, more than 300 patients participated) using stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries are rather promising. This gives hope to people who have had this disease. 

Stem cell treatment in patients with spinal cord injury can be administered in the following ways.

  • Intraspinally (close to the injured area in the spine, where they will eventually develop into spinal cord tissue)
  • Intrathecally (to the cerebrospinal fluid, allowing them to go to the site of injury with the flow of CSF)
  • intravenously or intraarterially

The mechanism of action of mesenchymal (umbilical cord, placenta, bone marrow) stem cells includes the secretion of different neurotrophic factors which promote the growth and regeneration of damaged nerves and other substances which lead to an increase of blood vessel formation, increase in cell survival, a decrease of neuroinflammatory changes, etc. 

The efficacy of stem cell treatment is influenced by the number and source of the cells, environmental factors,  level, degree and stage of spinal cord injury, and individual characteristics of the patient.

In the actual site of the spinal cord, stem cells help a paralyzed person by using their regeneration abilities to improve the severed piece of the spinal cord. This lets the affected area slowly regain feeling and the ability to control muscles. Several studies on animals have shown that donated stem cells for paraplegics may be able to treat spinal cord injuries by repairing damaged cells and making it easier for neurons in the host cell to communicate with each other.

Indications And Contraindications For Cell Therapy

  • Indications:
    • Although stem cell spinal cord repair therapy shows good promise in treating spinal cord damage, it is crucial to carefully identify patients in order to get the desired outcomes. 
    • Stem cells for spinal cord injury is generally advised for patients who have not experienced a significant improvement following surgery or alternative therapeutic approaches due to its continued development.
    • A facility with the necessary equipment and personnel to manage stem cells, transplant them, and conduct follow-up is required for the process. 
  • Contraindications:

Therapy with stem cells for paralysis due to spinal cord injury comes with no absolute contraindications; however, certain relative contraindications should be kept in mind. These include patients in the following categories:

  • with compromised immune systems or active (< 5 years after complete healing) cancer 
  • those with an ongoing infection, 
  • those who are extremely fragile, or 
  • patients with end-stage affection of organs (assessed individually)

Advantages of Stem Cell Therapy at Swiss Medica

Stem cell therapy for Spinal cord injuries offers good recovery and has the following advantages at Swiss Medica.

  • At Swiss Medica, we treat each patient with an individual approach and the highest possible level of comfort.
  • We have the necessary expertise for this treatment because of our 13+ years of experience treating over 5,200 patients.
  • No sedatives or general anesthesia are needed for the painless treatment in most cases. In some cases, sedation might be necessary, but it is done only after a consultation with one of our professionals.
  • Because the procedure of stem cell spine repair is done according to strict protocols, there is no risk of transmitting infectious diseases like hepatitis. 
  • The procedure itself has minimal risk, and most side effects can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Stem Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

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Contact us to learn about the expected results of the treatment, its cost and duration.

Stem Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
Dr. Aleksandra Fetyukhina, MD

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

What Type of Improvements Can I Expect from Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cells for spinal injury patients demonstrate a wide range of possible effects, and each patient’s recovery time is different. 

  • Sensory function improvement:
    • The resumption of feeling in any or all the affected areas of the body is one early symptom that is noted in spinal cord injury patients treated with stem cell therapy.
  • Motor function improvement:
    • As the therapy is introduced, the neurons start to regrow with an increase in the number of synapses. This results in the improvement of motor systems and manifests as increased muscular strength. 
  • Return of reflexes:
    • The idea that many spinal cord reflexes can regenerate over time is also widely held.  
  • Improvement in urinary and bowel dysfunction:
    • The results of stem cell treatment for neurogenic bowel dysfunction were positive, according to research by GH Labajo et al. Patients suffering from spinal cord injuries often experience infections of the urinary and intestinal tracts. Patients with both bowel and urine dysfunction may find relief from their symptoms, infection management, and overall quality of life issues with stem cell therapy. 

What Type of Side Effects Can a Patient Expect from Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy is generally considered a safe procedure if proper precautions are taken before, during, and after the procedure. Nonetheless, some adverse events are associated with stem cell therapy and may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Pain
  • Local site inflammation and swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dyspepsia

Much discussion is centered around determining the precise frequency of malignant neoplasms and cancer (if talking about Mesenchymal Stromal Cells), but long term observation didn’t reveal a higher frequency of tumors when compared to placebo (or non-treated) groups. This is more typical for immature (fetal or embryonic) stem cells as well as induced pluripotent cells, transdifferentiation to the embryonic level. But, as stated above, those are not the type of cells we use at Swiss Medica, which nullifies the possibility of such a risk.

Cost of Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury

Stem cells for spinal cord injury costs can vary based on several factors, such as the individual patient’s health status, related clinical characteristics, and medical history. In consideration of the individual needs of each patient, Swiss Medica works hard to offer first-rate medical care at reasonable prices that range from €7,000 to €25,000.

Send a request

Contact us to learn about the expected results of the treatment, its cost and duration.

Stem Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
Dr. Aleksandra Fetyukhina, MD

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

Additional reading about the effects of stem cell treatment in spinal cord injury

  1. https://cellandbioscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13578-020-00475-3
  2. https://cellandbioscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13578-020-00475-3/tables/2  (table with clinical trials overview)
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6600381/  (with tables of preclinical and clinical trials results)
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7510077/table/Tab2/?report=objectonly (table with clinical trials results)
  5. https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4409/11/6/1019 (review of clinical trials results)
  6. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/immunology/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2023.1141601/full  (with the table of clinical trials, table is here.) https://www.frontiersin.org/files/Articles/1141601/fimmu-14-1141601-HTML-r1/image_m/fimmu-14-1141601-t001.jpg 
  7. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/sci/2020/2853650/ https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4409/12/1/120 (with table of clinical trials)

List of References

  1. Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury: An Overview of Pathophysiology, Models and Acute Injury Mechanisms

    Arsalan Alizadeh, Scott Matthew Dyck, Soheila Karimi-Abdolrezaee https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30967837/

  2. Incidence and pattern of traumatic spine injury in a single level I trauma center of southern Iran

    Mahnaz Yadollahi, Mehrdad Karajizadeh, Najmeh Bordbar, Zahra Ghahramani


  3. Traumatic Spinal Injury: Global Epidemiology and Worldwide Volume

    Ramesh Kumar, Jaims Lim, Rania A Mekary, Abbas Rattani and others


  4. Clinical diagnosis and prognosis following spinal cord injury

    Anthony S Burns, Ralph J Marino, Adam E Flanders, Heather Flett


  5. From basics to clinical: a comprehensive review on spinal cord injury

    Nuno A Silva, Nuno Sousa, Rui L Reis, António J Salgado


  6. Intrathecal injection of human placental mesenchymal stem cells derived exosomes significantly improves functional recovery in spinal cord injured rats

    Afsane Soleimani, Saeed Oraee Yazdani, Mirsepehr Pedram, Fatemeh Saadinam and others


  7. Comprehensive Monosynaptic Rabies Virus Mapping of Host Connectivity with Neural Progenitor Grafts after Spinal Cord Injury

    Andrew F Adler, Corinne Lee-Kubli, Hiromi Kumamaru, Ken Kadoya, Mark H Tuszynski


  8. Neural stem cell therapy aiming at better functional recovery after spinal cord injury

    Yicheng Zhu, Naohiro Uezono, Tetsuro Yasui, Kinichi Nakashima


  9. Complications Following Stem Cell Therapy in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

    Hongyun Wei, Xiaowei Liu, Chunhui Ouyang, Jie Zhang, Shuijiao Chen, Fanggen Lu, Linlin Chen


  10. Objective demonstration of improvement of neurogenic bowel dysfunction in a case of spinal cord injury following stem cell therapy

    H Guadalajara Labajo, M León Arellano, J Vaquero Crespo, I Valverde Núñez, and D García-Olmo


More sources
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Dr. Nina Author

MD, Physician in General Medicine, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Pulmonology, Cardiology. Regenerative specialist

Natalia Semeshina
Doctor Lana Reviewer

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