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Spinal cord injury research may lead to promising cures

Spinal cord injuries in West Virginia may drastically affect a person's life. Sadly, paralysis is an all too common result. Research is underway to find ways to restore a person's physical function following an accident leading to spinal cord injury. However, many unanswered questions remain.

One neurosurgeon has pitched the idea of transplanting the head of a person who has an incapacitating muscle-wasting disease onto a dead donor's healthy body. This process comes with challenges, including the need to keep the brain alive through cooling as well as suppressing the immune system to prevent rejection of the transplant. The biggest hurdle involves restoring each connection to the spinal cord; otherwise, the brain will be unable to control the new body.

Unlike other tissues in the human body, spinal cord nerves do not spontaneously self-repair once damaged. This is why, even though there are frequently media reports about new breakthroughs, no effective cure has as yet been found for the millions paralyzed by injuries to the spinal cord every year. Polyethylene glycol has been hailed as one potentially promising treatment, along with other drugs, gene therapies and stem cells; however, the road to using these options in real-world applications has not been easy.

Those in West Virginia who suffer from spinal cord injury are cautiously optimistic that today's scientific research will finally lead to a truly effective cure. Until then, they are left to deal with the challenges that come with these injuries. Those whose spinal cord injuries were caused by the negligence of another individual -- for instance, in a motor vehicle accident -- may be entitled to file liability claims, seeking damages. Financial restitution in a successful case may help to cover ongoing medical treatment and other losses tied to the injury-causing incident.

Source: discovermagazine.com, "The Trouble With Head Transplants", Andrew Jackson, Feb. 2, 2016

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