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Major clinical trial approved for spinal cord injury treatment

Spinal-cord injuries can impair sensation, muscle control and movement, including partial or complete paralysis. Victims also may have severe pain and labored breathing.

Federal regulators have approved an important clinical trial for an ambitious procedure aimed at regenerating cells damaged by spinal-cord-injury accidents. The treatment will transplant a paralyzed patient's own electrical-signal-sending Schwann cells from his or her peripheral nervous system to the area of injury.

Researchers at the University of Miami Medical Center hope that the Schwann cells will function similarly to stem cells and bring back the injured patient's feeling and ability to move.

This experiment has never been tried on humans anywhere. Similar procedures in lab animals have had positive results. For example, such transplants have improved damaged animal nerve cells. Around 70 percent of function came back to mammals with complete paralysis in similar studies.

Approximately 300,000 Americans have such injuries, which can have many causes, but the leading one is motor vehicle accidents. According to the Mayo Clinic, other traumatic causes include motorcycle crashes, sports accidents like football hits or diving mishaps, falls, and violent acts like being shot or knifed.

The consumption of alcoholic beverages is in some way a part of about one-quarter of spinal-cord accidents. Damage to the spinal column can also come from the symptoms of some diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis and cancer.

Anyone who suffers from a spinal-cord injury because of the negligent actions of another person should speak with an experienced attorney about the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit.

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