A cure for spinal cord injuries may be close - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

A cure for spinal cord injuries may be close

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(01/30/31) - A cure for paralysis may be right inside your own body! What is really exciting is that researchers are using cells from inside a patient's body to try to cure paralysis. This new research path could impact many of the thousands of people who suffer traumatic spinal cord injuries every year.

"Before I even hit the ground, I knew I was paralyzed," says Marc Bouniconti's of his final football play.

The collision paralyzed him from the neck down. "Next thing I know, I went from the best shape of my life to fighting for my life in a split second."

Now Bouniconti, the son of an NFL hall of famer, is fighting to walk again, and a new treatment could be his answer. For the first time, the FDA has approved a trial to evaluate the safety of Schwann cells. The cells are responsible for sending electrical signals throughout the nervous system.
"The vision is that can we use these cells that normally function in the peripheral nervous system to repair the central nervous system," says Dr. Dalton Dietrich, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

In an upcoming trial, those newly diagnosed with acute spinal cord injuries, will be injected with their own Schwann cells. The idea is to help existing nerves in the injured site grow.

Dietrich says his research team saw about 70 percent improvement in function and movement in paralyzed animals injected with Schwann cells.

"We'll never know, will we, until what we can accomplish until we do this experiment in man," Dr. Dietrich says.

While he is not taking part in the trial, Bouniconti hopes one day the research will help him. "Science can do more than build a wheelchair, we can, we can find a cure."

The trial will help develop future studies targeting different types of injuries and therapeutic combinations. Dr. Dietrich says the study could take about three to four years to complete.

There is a research fund, through the Miami Project, that bears Bouniconti's name. For more information, visit:  http://www.miamiproject.miami.edu/page.aspx?pid=201

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