New therapies can help patients recover from paralysis caused due to spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries can’t be treated by bringing absolute normalcy in a person’s life. But, various methods such as drug delivery mechanism and electric stimulation promises to bring back the control of movements in a person’s body.

Spinal Cord Injury is the worst form of injury that could occur to anyone. Although quite rare, they can lead to permanent disability or paralysis, affecting lives and devastating people. In India alone there are almost 15,000 cases of spinal cord injury while the total number of survivors of such an injury has now gone upto 1.5 million. Even in the US over 18,000 people suffer from traumatic spinal cord injury every year.

Spinal cord injuries can severely affect a person’s movement and motor skills. Those suffering from paralysis-induced spinal cord injury cannot perform even basic functions on their own and often need a person’s help to perform their day to day activities. 

Unfortunately, such spinal cord injuries can’t be treated by bringing absolute normalcy in a person’s life. However, they can be managed by using techniques of extensive rehabilitation. As per an estimate, 80 percent of the accidents which lead to severe damage to spinal cord occurs in rural India and among the people who are 20-50 years old.

With that, such spinal cord injuries impact people’s physical health along with affecting their well-being and mental health. As far as pain alleviating measures and treatment associated with them are concerned, they include mostly pain management mechanisms.  Now this may easily include the provision of physiotherapy, rehabilitation and counselling. 

Several other methods for pain management include heat and electrical stimulation along with stem cell therapy. In the hindsight, it has been observed that these methods, especially those done through heat and electrical pulses can neither cure paralysis nor they can completely vanish chronic pain.

Treatment by drug delivery methods

At present maximum methods for the treatment of spinal cord surgeries are palliative that means they do not provide any long term mitigating treatment from the injury in the body. One of the most effective therapies that has come up in the recent days is the stem cell therapy which tends to provide a longer relaxation from such injuries by regrowing lost nerve fibres.

Following that, Young Hye Song, a biomedical engineering researcher at the University of Arkansans in the US did develop a drug delivery which can easily provide alleviating measure to the injury site at the spinal cord while preserving it for a longer period of time throughout. She has developed the technique of housing hydrogel inside the body.

Hydrogel seems to house stem cells inside the nerve matrix while allowing those cells to live longer. As a result they can spend more time in healing the damaged or injured part of the spinal cord. This hydrogel consists of extracellular tissue matrix components which are found inside the human body.

Previously, many treatments and studies have focussed only on replacing the damaged part of the spinal cord by stem cell therapy but substantially lacked on focusing on storing them. As a consequence the healing cells can’t survive for a prolonged amount of time and hence, do not provide enough alleviating measure to the patients.

Under this new system, since the healing takes place consistently after injecting hydrogel into the body, spinal cord tissues continue to recover. As a result, it also provides a conducive environment for regeneration of axons which serves as a cable transmission between neurons. 

The regeneration of axons is possible by providing proteins to the cells to grow back faster. Other than that, the injection of hydrogel can be performed easily on the patients as it did not require any harsh chemicals for the purpose of synthesis.

Treatment based on electric stimulation

Other methods include, application of electric stimulation to the damaged portion of the spinal cord. Eventually such a method requires implants which cost thousands of dollars and are quite expensive for ordinary people to afford them. Besides, a recent study was also conducted in the University of Washington where non-invasive electrical stimulation was given to patients. This ultimately helped them in maintaining a control on movement of their body parts for six months.

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