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Science turned upside down

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    Science turned upside down

    Science turned upside down
    By: Holly Bezant [more articles by author]
    September 26, 2002

    It has long been believed in the scientific community that the spinal cord can not regenerate itself once it is damaged. Yet, all of this is changing.

    In 2000, a college student named Melissa Holley was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the middle of her back down. At the time, an experimental therapy was getting under way at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel. Holley became the first patient.

    In the body, macrophages clean up damaged nerve tissue, setting the stage for regrowth. They aren't very active in the central nervous system. Researchers trained macrophages injected into the spine to behave as if they were in an arm (where nerve cells could be repaired).

    Six months after having her macrophages injected into her spinal cord, Holley could wiggle her toes, and over time, swing her knees and stand with assistance. A majority of scientists now believe that the spinal cord can regenerate, which is promising news for paralyzed victims.

    A more recent case of spinal injury recuperation involves Superman's Christopher Reeve. His horseback riding injury is well known, but I'll recap for those who aren't too familiar with what happened.

    Reeve's horse balked at a jump, throwing Reeve headfirst and fracturing the vertebrae in his spine. Paralyzed from the neck down, Reeve was unable to breathe without a respirator. His first vertebra was decimated so badly that his head was basically not connected to his body. Surgery was required to stabilize the vertebrae and to reattach his head to his spine.

    Recently Reeve has discovered that he has regained some ability to move and feel. He has gained control of his right wrist and the fingers on his left hand. He can feel light touch over most of his body, move his arms and legs in the pool or while lying in bed and can breathe on his own for 90 minutes.

    Reeve credits his success to weight-bearing exercises, calcium supplements and medication that reversed a severe case of osteoporosis that is common in people who are confined in a wheelchair.

    It's very encouraging that such progress is being made in an instance that had previously seemed impossible to fix. It also places emphasis on the many benefits of exercise.

    There are some other interesting advancements being made in medicine. For one thing, for those who oppose the use of embryos specifically for stem cell research, one case has proven that adult stem cells can be used to treat diseases.

    Dennis Turner of San Clemente, Calif., had developed Parkinson's disease. He signed up for an experimental treatment involving the extraction of stem cells from Turner's brain to create healthy new neurons. The neurosurgeon conducting the experiment grew the cells in a lab dish for seven months, until they numbered in the millions, when he then transplanted them back into Turner's brain.

    Since the experiment, Turner's symptoms have nearly vanished in actions that had caused challenges. (For example, it used to take him half an hour to put in his contacts.) He says that his neurosurgeon wouldn't know he had Parkinson's if he didn't know it already.

    The experiment I'm looking forward to seeing success in, on a personal level, is a bionic retina made of a silicon microchip that could restore partial sight to some blind patients.

    It is very encouraging that such great things are happening without the use of controversial techniques like the embryonic stem cell. Let's hope things keep advancing for the good of all.

    Holly would like for something to be invented to help her get enough sleep (besides avoiding procrastination tendencies). Give her your input at

    "It was once written "To thine own self be true". But how do we know who we really are? Every man must confront the monster within himself, if he is ever to find peace without. .." Outer Limits(Monster)

    Very bizzarre

    & strange article

    I wonder ,what author was smoking, when he wrote this [img]/forum/images/smilies/wink.gif[/img] [img]/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

    "It was once written "To thine own self be true". But how do we know who we really are? Every man must confront the monster within himself, if he is ever to find peace without. .." Outer Limits(Monster)