The Seattle back and neck injury attorneys at Dean Standish Perkins & Associates continually remain abreast of current developments in treatment of debilitating spinal cord injuries (SCI). While no cure exists for victims of catastrophic spinal cord injury, there are promising avenues of research being pursued by experts in the medical field. Recent developments include:
Stem Cell Research
Most old and damaged cells throughout the body are constantly being replaced with new cells. Skin is the most visible example of this continual process. Unfortunately, the nerve cells of the spinal cord, known as “neurons,” are not naturally replaced by the body, and cannot be repaired.
Stem cells are “blank” cells that the body has not yet directed to become a certain type of cell. If scientists can manage to coax these undifferentiated cells into neurons, they may be able to replace damaged neurons, and possibly to repair the spinal cord. However, because the most promising stem cells are only available from human embryos, this area of research remains controversial and tightly regulated. Tissue rejection is another obstacle. The body is trained to fight off foreign elements; designing stem cells that will not be rejected by the body is a significant challenge. Suppression of the immune system can potentially address this issue, but this carries its own concerns as it leaves the patient vulnerable to infection and other harm.
While no conclusions have yet been reached, this is a very promising area of research that may eventually yield results that can help victims of SCI.
Olfactory Cell Research
Located in the sinuses, olfactory cells are responsible for our sense of smell, and may prove to be a viable – and noncontroversial – substitute for harvested stem cells. Olfactory cells include neurons; stem cells that can become neurons; and glial cells (OEGC), which play a vital role in nerve function. Unlike the nerves found in the spinal cord, olfactory neurons can repair themselves. Research into olfactory cells is ongoing, and initial attempts to transplant olfactory cells to the spinal cord have yielded increased sensation and improved motor abilities in some patients. However, like stem cell research, olfactory cell research has its own medical and regulatory concerns. The transplant procedure has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though it has been performed in Portugal, China and Australia.
Costs Of Treatment For SCI
Some victims of SCI seek out procedures like the ones described above from overseas facilities. However, undergoing these types of experimental procedures can be dangerous. Further, the beneficial effects of these procedures may only be temporary, and they may actually reduce the patient’s ability to receive future treatment. As a result, domestic health insurance providers will not pay for these cell transplants, and the costs to the patient are often prohibitive and not worth the risk.
Experienced SCI Attorneys In Seattle, Washington
At Dean Standish Perkins & Associates, our Seattle SCI attorneys work closely with the victims of devastating injuries to help them find the care they need — and the compensation they need to pay for it. As research continues in this area and more procedures become available to the public, we will continually advise our clients as to their options for treatment and recovery. If you or a loved one has suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury, contact our King County law offices today for a free consultation.