Chinese doctors carry out groundbreaking spinal cord surgery

Spinal cord injuries remain one of the most challenging medical problems to treat. But new groundbreaking surgery has been carried out, right here in China, giving hope that paralyzed people may one day walk again.

The regenerative stem cell treatment follows more than 10 years of research by Chinese scientists. I’ve been finding out how the procedure went and what it could mean for the advancement of spinal cord surgery worldwide.

Four hours of surgery in China’s northern city of Tianjin. This man was paralyzed in his lower body after he was involved in a traffic accident two months ago.

Implanting stem cells into his spinal column

The doctors treating him have implanted stem cells into his spinal column, using regenerative nerve material developed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It’s the first time regenerative spinal cord surgery has been attempted, anywhere in the world.

“A scar was formed in the first surgery to occupy the entire damaged part of the spine. We then cut it out, about 2.8 centimeters in size, and replaced it with a tube containing stem cells,” said Tang Fengwu, China Police Neurological Hospital.

Major spinal injuries nearly always lead to paralysis below the level of the injury. Doctors and scientists around the world have for years been trying to find new ways to treat the problem.

Experiments began ten years ago

The Institute of Genetics and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences began experiments with animals ten years ago.

They started with mice, and then progressed to bigger animals, like dogs. The experiments were successful, giving scientists more confidence to attempt the procedure on humans.

“Spinal nerves are like a cable. So we’ve designed collagenous fibers, like a bridge or a rail, that nerves can crawl along as they grow. Stem cells can produce regenerative tissue elements, so they improve the regeneration capacity of the wounded area,” said Dai Jianwu, research fellow at Inst. of Genetics & Dev’t, CAS.

The four-hour surgery went smoothly

Doctors say the four-hour surgery went smoothly on Friday. Now, the patient’s family can only wait and hope.

“We have a large family to raise. I hope he can feel his legs again as soon as possible. I’ll be very happy if he can stand up one day, even if he can only walk one tenth the distance we do,” said a patient’s wife.

Another 6 spinal cord injury patients are now set to take the groundbreaking surgery. New hope for six more families and perhaps a huge breakthrough for spinal cord injuries, across the world.

Source: Chinese doctors carry out groundbreaking surgery CCTV