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expert reaction to story on spinal cord repair

Researchers publishing in the journal Cell Transplantation have described the treatment of a paralysed patient, using cells transplanted from his own nose into his spinal cord.


Dr Simone Di Giovanni, Chair in Restorative Neuroscience, Imperial College London, said:

“A one case of a patient improving neurological impairment after spinal cord knife injury following nerve and olfactory cell transplantation is simply anecdotal and cannot represent any solid scientific evidence to elaborate upon. In fact, there is no evidence that the transplant is responsible for the reported neurological improvement.

“The use of these cells for spinal cord injury repair have been implemented for 30 years now with very controversial results in rodents, non human primates and patients. Extreme caution should be used when communicating these findings to the public in order not to elicit false expectations on people who already suffer because of their highly invalidating medical condition.”


Dr Dusko Ilic, Senior Lecturer in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, said:

“Although the achievement is indeed revolutionary, this approach worked only in one patient so far.  It is known from published animal studies that in some cases transplantation of olfactory ensheathing glial (OEG) cells led to marked improvements, whereas in other cases not.  The OEG cells are not uniform population and the transplant success may depend on the presence of special OEG cell subtype. We need to enroll more people in the study to get a better idea how reliable and repeatable this approach is.  Regardless, this outstanding result will give a hope to thousands of immobile spinal cord injury patients around the world.”


Prof Kevin Shakesheff, Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering, University of Nottingham, said:

“I’m very pleased for Geoff Raisman because this is a life time of work. His deep understanding of the cells gives this approach the best chance to be the breakthrough in spinal cord repair. However, Geoff and the team are correct to be cautious until many patients have been treated. At best I’d expect to see quite a lot of variability in the clinical success because the complexity of the tissue they are trying to repair and the different extent of damage in each patient.”


Declared interests

None declared


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