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New spinal treatment may help paralyzed workers return to job

A new treatment may be in the works for individuals in Ohio and beyond who have received a life-altering injury. Anyone who has suffered a serious spinal cord injury knows that the effects can be everlasting. For those who received the injury while on the job, workers' compensation may have been sought and obtained, but for many, no amount of money can replace the abilities they lost when they were injured.

A new treatment may change all of that. The scientific director of a project that has been looking to cure paralysis may have found a way to fix any paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury. With promising results in many different types of animals, the new technique may hold its ground.

Scientists have been performing the procedure on different species for some time now. This different approach begins with the extraction of a patient's mature cells. They are taken from the leg, grown in a laboratory and then replanted in the spinal cord. These replicated cells, which match up with the person they were harvested from, then begin repairing the injury.

By using this technique, scientists may have voided the necessity of suppressing the immune system so it does not attack the implanted reparation cells because they are not foreign. An application has been sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for "phase I" trials on humans.

Many are hoping that the tests will be a success. For those who have received an occupational spinal cord injury, the news could not be more hopeful. In time, the treatment may be accessible to many, and the possibility of going back to work may become that much more of a reality.

Source: Scientific American, "Preliminary Human Experiments to Test Safety of Nerve Cell Transplants for Spinal Cord Paralysis," R. Douglas Fields, Oct. 19, 2011

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