Only Way to Treat Spinal Cord Injuries?

Date: 06/11/2002

In testimony 3/5/02 before the Senate Subcommittee on Health in support of human embryonic cloning in order to obtain embryonic stem cells, actor and patient advocate Christopher Reeve said this research was the only way to cure his condition:

“In my own case, I require remyelination of nerves. That means replacing the conductive coat of fat, myelin, that allows electricity to come down currents from the brain to the central nervous system for function. At the moment, only embryonic stem cells have the potential to do that…So without the ability to use my own DNA, without that somatic cell transfer, I’ m out of luck.”
— Actor and patient advocate Christopher Reeve, Senate Subcommittee on Health, 3/5/02

But the peer-reviewed published research literature does not bear him out.

Studies with adult stem cells (either from bone marrow or olfactory ensheathing cell) show that they could remyelinate spinal cords. Others show that adult stem cells can even regenerate a completely severed spinal cord and provide recovery to the animals — something even more difficult to achieve than remyelination.

(C. P. Hofstetter et al., “Marrow stromal cells form guiding strands in the injured spinal cord and promote recovery,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99, 2299-2204, Feb. 19, 02; M. Sasaki et al., “Transplantation of an acutely isolated bone marrow fraction repairs demyelinated adult rat spinal cord axons,” Glia 35, 26-34; July 2001; A. Ramon-Cueto et al., “Functional recovery of paraplegic rats and motor axon regeneration in their spinal cords by olfactory ensheathing glia,” Neuron 25, 425-435; February 2000; M.S. Ramer et al.; “Functional regeneration of sensory axons into the adult spinal cord,” Nature 403, 312-316; January 20, 2000; S. Shihabuddin et al.; “Adult spinal cord stem cells generate neurons after transplantation in the adult dentate gyrus,” J Neuroscience 20, 8727-8735; December 2000; Barnett et al.; “Identification of a human olfactory ensheathing cell that can effect transplant-mediated remyelination of demyelinated CNS axons,” Brain 123, 1581-1588, August 2000: A. Ramon-Cueto et al., “Long-distance axonal regeneration in the transected adult rat spinal cord is promoted by olfactory ensheathing glial transplants,” J Neuroscience 18, 3803-3815; May 15, 1998).