Saturday, November 27, 2004

Stem cell therapy helps patient walk again, South Korea

A team of Korean researchers claimed Thursday they had performed a miracle by enabling a patient, who could not even stand up for the last 19 years, to walk with stem cell therapy.

During a press conference, the scientists said they had last month transplanted multi-potent stem cells from umbilical cord blood to the 37-year-old female patient suffering from a spinal cord injury and she can now walk on her own.

The team was co-headed by Chosun University professor Song Chang-hun, Seoul National University professor Kang Kyung-sun and Han Hoon, Ph.D, from the Seoul Cord Blood Bank (SCB).

"The stem cell transplantation was performed on Oct. 12 this year and in just three weeks she started to walk with the help of a walker," Song said.

The patient's lower limbs were paralyzed after an accident in 1985 damaged her lower back and hips. Afterward she spent her life in bed or in a wheelchair.

For the unprecedented clinical test, the scientists isolated stem cells from umbilical cord blood and then injected them into the damaged part of the spinal cord.

The sensory and motor nerves of the patient started to improve 15 days after the operation and she could move her hips. After 25 days, her feet responded to stimulation.

Earlier in October 2003, Song's team also staged a clinical test with stem cells originating from umbilical cord blood by injecting them into another patient's spine.

"Back then we injected stem cells into spinal fluid and failed to get a good result. This time around, we directly targeted the spine and the method made a difference," Song said.