A review of current scientific research for stem cell treatments in spinal cord injuries (SCIs) supports the idea researchers are ready to move beyond the lab to conduct clinical trials for stem cells. Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, and Reaz Vawda, PhD, of the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Hospital in Ontario, Canada, authored the review and report that they can provide evidence supporting the progression of human clinical trials for stem cells.
Fehlings says the full benefits of stem cell therapy are not realized because research has remained largely in the laboratory. “With the exception of a few clinical trials, current research is stalled at the animal phase. Scientists from around the world have demonstrated as much as they can in lab models that stem cells have an impact on SCIs and can be transplanted into new patients. Now we need the support and coordination of regulatory bodies to move this science forward.” The study evaluates 11 different cell types/sources alongside the evidence that reportedly justifies their use.
According to the study, there is myriad evidence that supports increasing and expanding clinical trials. The study first points to the dozen completed, ongoing or recruiting cell therapy clinical trials for SCI. Next, it emphasizes that no experimental animal model will completely mimic the human condition. The study also justifies immediate translation into clinical trials thanks to substantial pre-clinical and earlier clinical safety studies of satisfactory quality and reliability. It also highlights the idea that advances in applying regenerative neuroscience to SCIs will only be yielded by preclinical research along with rigorous ethical clinical trials.
Fehlings claims a strong patient advocacy movement would likely bolster clinical applications. Fehlings also acknowledges that there are no completely risk-free clinical interventions but also points to bone marrow transplants and the polio vaccine as instances in which science has progressed in spite of treatment standstills.
The review was recently published in the Springer journal Neurotheraputics