Jul 12, 2002
By Marilyn Bitomsky
BRISBANE, Australia (Reuters Health)
A team in Brisbane has begun the first clinical trial of spinal cord regeneration using transplanted autologous olfactory ensheathing cells.
The first 8-hour operation to implant the cells into the spinal cord of a paraplegic patient was conducted in June and, although team members were guarded in their responses, it appears that more than one operation may have been performed. This phase I trial will consist of eight patients, some of whom have yet to be recruited.
The research team, which includes Princess Alexandra Hospital spinal injuries unit head Dr. Tim Geraghty, ear nose and throat specialist Dr. Chris Perry, and Griffith University scientists Dr. Alan Mackay-Sim and Dr. Francois Feron, began planning the trial 2 years ago.
The Griffith scientists and colleagues from the University of New South Wales had already demonstrated that the cells caused regeneration in the severed spinal cords of laboratory rats.
The procedure began when Dr. Perry harvested nasal tissue several weeks before the operation at Princess Alexandra Hospital. As an extension of the CNS, olfactory glial cells are more accessible than other cerebral cells, the researchers noted.
The cells were then expanded in the laboratory by the Griffith University scientists, apparently the first time this has been achieved.
Fourteen million cells were then transplanted into several areas of the patient's injured spinal cord. The cells were injected with a surgical device developed by the team, allowing the cells to be injected through extremely fine needles.
Although the trial team was careful not to raise false hopes that the
procedure will be an immediate cure for paralysis, Dr. Perry said there
is a chance that the cells "will do something positive for these people."
He expects some feeling to be regained and possible improvement in bladder
and bowel function.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd