Researchers at Chosun University in South Korea claim that stem cells from umbilical cord blood injected into the spine of a woman paralysed for 19 years have helped her to walk again. The stem cells were injected on October 12 and within three weeks, she took her first steps with the help of a walker. Professor Song Chang-hun says that the technique will be tested on four more patients soon. The results will be published next year.
Another researcher, Professor Kang Kyung-sun, told the Korea Times that cord blood stem cells were superior in this case because they did not carry ethical baggage and did not create cancerous teratomas, as embryonic stem cells sometimes do. "Embryonic stem cells are omni-potent in that they can divide into anything, even including a tumour cell. But cord blood stem cells are developed enough not to cause such troubles while retaining as powerful a differentiation capacity at the same time."
And in the US, researchers at the University of California Reeve- Irvine Research Center have used mouse embryonic stem cells to create myelin, the insulating tissue for nerve cells. This raises hopes, they say, that people with spinal cord injury can recover some movement and sensation.
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