Stem cell therapy shows promise for paralyzed victims
By April Cunningham, Associate Editor
New stem cell research is “a step in the right direction” for those suffering from spinal cord injuries, says Toronto critical injury lawyer Dale Orlando.
A literature review by researchers with the University Health Network and the University of Toronto shows cell therapy, or the implantation and regeneration of cells, is “a promising treatment approach.”
According to research published in the journal Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, cell therapies have shown “modest” improvements in functional recovery, and even a slight boost in sensation and function can have a substantial impact on the patient.
Orlando, partner with McLeish Orlando LLP, represents many plaintiffs with spinal cord damage from motor vehicle accidents or sporting injuries resulting from someone else’s negligence. He says the trauma suffered by these plaintiffs is some of the worst because they are acutely aware of the impact the injury has on their life.
“That’s not to say that people with significant brain injuries aren’t also in a terrible situation, but those with spinal cord injuries are living with the realization of the extent of their injury every day, and it’s unrelenting,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
While there are incremental advancements in stem cell therapy when it comes to spinal cord injuries, Orlando says even the smallest development moves the research forward for those suffering from the life-altering diagnosis with no cure.
“Ultimately there will be a breakthrough and once researchers determine how to regenerate myelin and bridge the gap in the spinal cord — whether it is a complete severance, a crush injury or a partial dislocation — quadriplegia and paraplegia will be a thing of the past,” he says. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
Some people who suffer from these injuries often start out with an optimistic viewpoint, Orlando says, and many remain strong, striving for the best quality of life despite the catastrophic nature of their injuries.
“But if your spinal cord has been completely severed, at some point a physician will walk into your room and tell you that you will never walk again. That’s devastating to hear.”
New research and developments can provide hope to those who are in the early stages of treatment, he says.