Intensive physical therapy and stem cell grafts together can boost the functionality of spinal cord injuries more than either treatment alone. Researchers found this in animal models, where tissue growth, repair, and functionality were increased following the combination of therapies. The stem cells promote growth and healing of the surrounding tissues, while the physical therapy helps to improve movement and function.
Implants of stem cells or neural grafts can promote regeneration in spinal cord injuries when used with intensive physical rehabilitation. This combination may help improve function by promoting new or greater roles for spared or undamaged cells or neural circuits.
Stem cells have the ability to promote physical and functional recovery in individuals who have experienced a spinal cord injury. A recent study showed that rats who had a cervical lesion and then received a neural stem cell graft had improved functionality and movement when compared to rats who only received the lesion or physical therapy.
It was found that rehabilitation therapy for the animals begun one month following the injury helps approximate when human patients are admitted to spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers. In addition, this therapy rewards animals for grasping skills, which ultimately promotes their rehabilitation. Physical therapy can help promote regeneration of injured spinal cord nerve cell and, additionally, stem cell grafts may also be effective in aiding recovery. When both treatments are administered one month following the injury, there is significant improvement in grasping ability.
The new findings show that rehabilitation plays a critically important role in helping people with spinal cord injuries recover function. When combined with pro-regenerative therapies, such as stem cell transplants and physical rehabilitation it can significantly improve outcomes. This is surprising, as the benefits of physical rehabilitation were found to be much greater than what has been observed in humans. This suggests that early and intense rehabilitation may be key to maximizing functional recovery after a stem cell transplant.
Spinal cord injuries are a medical challenge that is still unresolved for many people. Each year, nearly 18,000 people in the U.S. suffer from an injury to the spinal cord. This often leads to some degree of physical impairment or paralysis that is permanent.
There is a need to improve therapies following spinal cord injuries. Researchers hope that this new combination therapy can help improve the function of the spine after an injury. Clinical human trials are planned for the near future to test this theory.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Rehabilitation combined with neural progenitor cell grafts enables functional recovery in chronic spinal cord injury