In 1995, Christopher Reeve, the actor who had played Superman in several movies, was injured in a horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. The world was shocked to see the once-athletic Reeve confined to a wheelchair, but he made many public appearances after his catastrophic spinal cord injury. He spent the rest of his life raising awareness about the need for research for new treatments for spinal cord injuries, and after his death in 2004, his widow Dana continued her husband’s campaign. Spinal cord injuries are devastating; even a celebrity as wealthy as Reeve could not pay to restore his ability to walk. Research on the treatment of spinal cord injury is ongoing, however, and in the last few years, medical scientists have been at work on developing promising new treatments to repair damaged nerve tissue and to find other means to restore the function of the limbs of people with spinal cord injuries. Currently, though, as with many complex medical problems, the most effective treatments are beyond the financial means of most people.
New Horizons in Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Research
Currently, no treatments exist that can restore people with severe spinal cord injuries to their former state of health before the injury. Many treatments exist, though, and research continues to find a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. Here are some of the most promising current research trends.
- Neuroregeneration: Most of the cells in the body, including the axons (an appendage of nerve cells) of the peripheral nervous system, can regenerate themselves, but the axons of the brain and spinal cord cannot. Research aims to treat the injured spinal cord with antibodies that target myelin, a coating on the axons of the spinal cord that prevents the axons from regenerating. The goal is to enable the spinal cord to repair itself, restoring sensation and voluntary movement.
- Stem cell transplants: Stem cells can differentiate to become cells of the various tissues of the body. Research aims to transplant stem cells to the spinal cord and enable them to regenerate functional spinal cord tissue. Embryonic stem cells show promise in this regard, but because of the ethical concerns surrounding their use, researchers are also experimenting with transplants of stem cells that are present in adults, such as neural stem cells (which become nerve cells), mesenchymal stem cells (which naturally differentiate into bone, muscle, and fat) and induced pluripotent stem cells (adult stem cells that have been altered so that they can function like embryonic stem cells, which can differentiate into virtually any type of cell).
- Medical devices: While not actually repairing the spinal cord, devices such as exoskeletons and brain-computer interfaces may help people with spinal cord injuries regain the use of their limbs.
Contact Case Barnett About Spinal Cord Injury Cases
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, being able to pay for treatment can save your life or vastly improve its quality. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit.