© Stefan Weiß

First ATP funded trial completed


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In 2011, based on promising experimental results, the company Stem Cell Inc. sponsored a clinical trial to test the efficacy and safety of the so-called human central nervous system stem cells (HuCNS-SC) in spinal cord injury. These are self-renewing, multi-potent adult stem cells. The trial involved the surgical transplantation of 20 million HuCNS-SC below and above the lesion of twelve patients with traumatic, chronic spinal cord injury.

An early end
In 2016, due to economic reasons, the sponsor decided to prematurely terminate the trial, leaving a lot of unanswered questions about the effect and mostly about safety. One year later, Wings for Life decided to support the long-term follow-up of the transplanted patients as a first project within the newly set up Accelerated Translational Program (ATP).

Safety and efficacy
A research group led by Armin Curt from Zürich collected six-year follow-up data from twelve patients treated in Switzerland and Canada. Half of the patients had reliable sensory improvements. Unfortunately, no motor improvement could be detected in the lower limbs. But most important, imaging analysis revealed no tumor formation or malformation of the lesion area, which could be a feared side effect of stem cell therapy. The obligatory immunosuppressive therapy accompanying cell transplantation was well-tolerated in this population susceptible to infections.

Short- and long-term safety and feasibility support cell transplantation for complete and incomplete spinal cord injury. This report is an important step to prepare, foster, and maintain cell transplantation therapies.

This study was published in the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: Curt A, Hsieh J, Schubert M, Hupp M, Friedl S, Freund P, Huber E, Pfyffer D, Sutter R, Jutzeler C, Wüthrich RP, Min K, Casha S, Fehlings MG, Guzman R. The Damaged Spinal Cord Is a Suitable Target for Stem Cell Transplantation. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. July 23, 2020.

You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.