The spinal cord is the major bundle of nerves that carries nerve impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. The brain and the spinal cord constitute the Central Nervous System.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) can be a traumatic blow to the spine that fractures or dislocates vertebrae. The damage begins at the moment of injury when displaced bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue. Spinal cord injury can also be a result from diseases or illnesses such as Polio, Transverse Myelitis, Multiple Sclerosis, AVM’s, Spina Bifida, Friedreich’s Ataxia, etc.
Most injuries to the spinal cord don’t completely sever it. Instead, an injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy the axons, extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord can damage a few, many, or almost all of these axons. Some injuries will allow almost complete recovery. Others will result in complete paralysis below the level of impact. But paralysis, along with the associated problems of bowel/bladder control, sexual function, pressure sores & skin care, pain and spasms, is very complex and no two cases appear to be the same. This has made a cure a very difficult and daunting prospect. However, now more than ever before, there is reason to hope that a cure is in fact imminent – that reason for hope is stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are one of the most fascinating areas of biology today. But like many expanding fields of scientific inquiry, research on stem cells raises scientific questions as rapidly as it generates new discoveries.
Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or to become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
As a result, they have the potential to provide cures or new treatments not only for spinal injuries but also for many diseases and injuries, including cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. Embryonic stem cells in particular have the promise of being the key factor in bringing about a cure for spinal cord injuries.
On the strength of this promise we come together to fight for this cure."