A cure on the horizon
Spinal Cord Injury victims the World over dream of the day they can push their wheelchairs to one side and reclaim their lives. Government has not adequately invested in the SCI curative research field, meaning that funding thus far has mainly been derived from Charitable Organisations and the injured community themselves.
Walkoncemore will help to fund the most significant advances in the fight against chronic SCI, helping these advances to translate into human clinical trials as soon as is safely possible. The cure is now in our midst and with increased funding, will become a near-term reality.
The Science bit
When a spinal cord is injured, it fails to regenerate and heal itself. The main barrier to this regeneration is overcoming the environment of the injured cord, which inhibits the re-growth and remyelination of nerve fibres called axons, as well as their ability to extend beyond the lesion site.
Neurons and support cells to the nervous system (called glia) are also lost due to the initial trauma, and the damage does not end there. Secondary damage will also occur in and around the site of the lesion, due mainly to the toxic inflammation that inevitably occurs and meaning yet further glia and neuron loss. Added to the inability of the axons to reconnect, the result for the individual is a lifetime of severe disability.
To repair an injured spinal cord, the regeneration and remyelination of axons within the cord is essential. Neuronal replacement may also be required, depending on the area and severity of the injury. Regeneration is simply re-growth, whilst remyelination is the coating of existing axons in myelin, a fatty insulator to help the nerve impulses travel.
A number of therapies that successfully support the regeneration of axons and neurons have been shown in animal models. We now know that around only 10% of the total axons need to be regenerated to support substantial functional recovery. As a matter of priority, this now needs to be translated to humans. Stem cell research is key to the repair of this damage, alongside other approaches including proteins and growth factors for nerve regeneration.
Stem cell research
‘An undifferentiated cell that gives rise to specialized cells, such as blood cells.’
Stem cells come in different types and are derived from various sources. The stem cells used in SCI research are either pluripotent or multipotent in the main. Pluripotent cells are capable of changing into many specialised types of cell via differentiation. Multipotent cells are also able to differentiate, but the end cell types are more limited.
Sources of stem cells include –
Embryonic – pluripotent and derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst
(a 5-7 day old cluster of cells in early embryonic development)
- Fetal – pluripotent and derived from the organs of foetuses
Umbilical cord – derived from cord blood
- Adult – mainly multipotent and found throughout the body after embryonic development.
Stem cells can be categorised by their ability to differentiate. Pluripotent stem cells can form any of the over 200 different cell types found in the body.
There have been many press releases about how adult stem cells have ‘cured’ and ‘alleviated’ a variety of ills, including Spinal Cord Injury. This simply is not true, and research must continue on ALL cell types.
Being that they are pluripotent, embryonic stem cells currently hold the most promise. The media misrepresentation surrounding these cells has resulted in an association with “the killing of human life”. The embryonic stem cell research that Walkoncemore supports involves the use of blastocysts. These cells are derived from IVF clinic ‘leftovers’ that would otherwise be destined for waste disposal. They were never intended to be implanted into a human womb to develop into a baby.
In the United States alone, nearly 400,000 of these blastocysts are destroyed each year. These discarded cells can and should instead be utilised for life saving research.
With your help we can get there
A cure for Spinal Cord Injury is attainable. It will ease endless pain and suffering World-wide, for millions of injured individuals and their loved ones.
The cost of lifelong care and support for victims runs into billions. A cure will enable needlessly unemployed people to support themselves once again, contributing to society rather than feeling as though they are burdening it. Many victims of SCI will attest to feeling that they are merely ‘existing’ rather than actually living. A cure will foster the independence needed to live a full life once again. Once found, a cure will positively impact each corner of the globe, making the World a better place for us and future Generations.
In order to continue our vital work, we really do need your help. There are many ways that you can show your support, and you can be sure that whichever way you decide upon – it will be greatly received and appreciated.