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    The walking again dream of hundreds of thousands of people forced to live their lives in wheelchairs because of spinal injuries may now become a reality. A medical researcher working for the US Military has developed a way to rejoin severed spinal cords without surgery.

    By Noel Young
    Copyright by
    Edit International

    WASHINGTON - Superman star Christopher Reeve, who died in October at 52, had been told that a cure might become available within 12 months for the paralysis he suffered after a riding accident.

    In Israel last year he was told that this was possible using a combination of laser and stem cell therapy.

    In the US , scientists have already successfully used low-powered lasers to repair severed spinal cords in rats and believe the work can be successfully translated to humans.

    The first-ever successful rejoining of a mammal's spinal cord without surgery has already taken place at an American military university, raising hopes that paralysed people may be able to walk again.

    Remarkably the initial funding for the research came from Ronald Reagan's Star Wars budget.

    Now the technique in which low-powered lasers were used to repair the spinal cords of paralysed rats - restoring the animals' mobility - is set to be tested on human beings.

    Professor Juanita Anders, the lead researcher on the project at the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, said some of the advances in the field of light therapy were "almost too incredible to believe."

    But she added, "We are creatures of light. Light cures spinal cord injury. I don't want to say ' we have done it in rats' . . . but we have."

    At the moment the university researchers are concentrating on acute injuries - injuries which have just happened - as opposed to long-term chronic injuries. But they are confident that the more complex treatment of old injuries - such as that sustained by Christopher Reeve in 1995 - is also within their grasp.

    Dr Jackson Streeter, whose San Diego firm has now licensed the technology developed by Professor Anders said, " If we could have lasered Christopher Reeve in the days immediately after his injuries, he might have been walking today."

    The US university where the laser work has been carried out - funded by the US Defense department - has 900 students , the majority in uniform, most of whom receive free medical training in return for a pledge to serve time in the armed forces. It is on the same heavily guarded campus as Bethesda Naval Hospital where president Bush gets his medicals.

    The laser breakthrough work was carried out by Professor Anders, her associate Dr Kimberley Byrnes and six other team members. Using the lasers, provided by a small British company,Thor International, the team was able to restore complete mobility to 10 white laboratory rats who had previously had their spinal cords cut.

    Ten other rats who also had their cords cut to act as the "control" in the experiment were not given the light treatment and made no recovery. "The 10 animals chosen received daily doses of light for about 50 minutes a day for two weeks, " said Professor Anders. "Nine weeks later when they were tested, they had recovered their mobility."

    At a neuroscience conference in New Orleans - with 28,000 attendees, the world's largest and most influential gathering of its kind - 28-year-old Dr Kimberley Byrnes made a poster presentation on the work which brought her a Ph.D.

    Dr Byrnes said, "The inspiration is Dr Anders. She guided me and mentored me and kept me going in the right direction."

    Professor Anders explained how the project started 17 years ago with with funding from Ronald Reagan's Star Wars programme. Professor Anders said, "We were called to a conference and asked to put up bio projects involving the use of lasers. My project won funding of $60,000 a year and we were on our way."

    Anders first established that low-powered laser seemed to have the ability to regenerate cells in facial paralysis. Eventually her work led to spinal cord injuries, which have until now been catastrophic for humans and animals because the nerves in the central nervous system fail to regenerate, leaving the victim paralysed.

    Kimberley Byrnes joined the Anders team five years ago, as a post graduate student determined to work on light therapy. She knew what the problems were with spinal injuries.
    "Things are made even worse because when the immune system kicks in, it causes greater impairment then the initial injury," said Dr Byrnes. "However light therapy had already proved effective in skin nerve regeneration. And we knew that light had the ability to suppress at least partly the immune system."

    The challenge facing the scientists was to decide just what wavelength of light might be effective - and how to establish that it was actually penetrating the flesh and reaching the broken spinal cord.

    That was where the lasers produced by the tiny Thor company came into their own. Thor employs just three people at Argyllshire in Scotland,designing and building the instruments.. Three more staff at its adminstrative and marketing HQ in Amersham in Bucks make up the workforce.

    Having settled on a wavelength close to infrared, the scientists had to find out if the light did actually penetrate the rats'bodies to the depth of the cord - something other doctors strongly doubted. To measure their success in reaching the broken spinal cord, the Anders team used a hypodermic to insert a fiber optic cable no thicker than a fishing line into the animals' backs.

    "This was the nearest thing to invasive surgery that we carried out," said professor Anders. And once we established that the light was reaching the wound, we didn't have to do it again.

    "We would cut the spinal cords, sew the animals back up, close the wound, put the light right over the injury site, for 50 minutes a day for 14 days."

    Two months after the surgery and the laser treatment, the success of the therapy was put to the test. Previously the white rats could cross a shiny ladder about two feet long in just ten seconds. After their spinal cord was partially cut their feet splayed akwardly in different directions and it took the animals twice as long - 20 seconds - to cross the ladder.

    Nine weeks later, the rats who had had the light treatment again set out to cross the ladder. They took 10 seconds - back to where they had been before the operation.

    "We had done it," said Professor Anders. "We had for the first time ever successfully restored function to a severed spinal cord."

    Professor Anders said they still did not fully understand the mechanism, in much the same way that the mechanism of acupuncture is not understood.

    "But we believe the light somehow alters the behaviour of the cells, inhibiting the immune system and allowing the neurons that make up the spinal cord to regroup. Using coloured dyes, Dr Byrnes established that neurons were indeed making the return journey over the old break in the spinal cord.

    Israel has long been a leader in laser therapy and last summer Christopher Reeve flew there to see the progress the scientists and doctors there were making on spinal cord injury. He had private meetings with the specialists as well as public visits to the labs and hospitals.

    One of the leading doctors Semion Rochkind, of Tel Aviv University, told me he had informed Mr. Reeve that a cure for his paralysis could be as little as two years away - using a combination of laser and stem cell technology.

    Anders admires the work done in Israel. "However, what they are planning is very complex and it involves invasive surgery. The beauty of what we are proposing is its very simplicity."

    The lab team is now working on human cadavers, testing the ability of the light to reach the spinal cord in a human. "So far the results are encouraging," said Prof Anders.

    Under the technology transfer system that operates in the US between the military and private companies , Dr Jackson Streeter's firm, PhotoThera, of San Diego, is likely to carry out the very first clinical trials. Dr. Streeter will be concentrating initially on treatment of strokes but is aiming for the beginning of 2005 to start the first ever repair of human spinal cord injuries


    Good article. This seems to be a breakthrough for a cleanly cut spinal cord where lazer is applied virtually immediately after transection.

    The chronic contused cord is a much different problem. Hopefully progress will be made soon for chronics.


      I haven't seen anything about this in the news.
      Where did you find this article? What was the date? It says human trials in 2005?


        woo - sounds too good to be true - seems a bit like science fiction (what could a laser possibly do?) but I hope not, perhaps the solution is that simple after all

        [This message was edited by Chris2 on 05-18-05 at 01:34 AM.]


          No doubt that sounds awesome. That would be awesome to prevent future Sci's. As us chronics know how bad they suck.


            Here are some links (only cementhead's original link mentions laser in chronic injuries)

            It certainly appears that Juanita Anders is a bone fide scientist. I have sent Juanita an email asking whether it is true that she intends to test the laser treatment on chronic injuries.


            original link:




            Lab Focus:
            Dr. Anders' current research activities include:

            1. A multi-treatment approach to enhance regeneration of the corticospinal tract and restore corticospinal tract function after acute spinal cord injury in adult rats. Combined treatments include olfactory ensheathing cell transplantation and application of a synthetic glucocorticoid steroid, methylprednisolone.

            2. The use of photobiomodulation (low power laser irradiation) to promote regeneration of acutely transected corticospinal tract axons. The regeneration of corticospinal tract axons through and beyond the lesion site is determined quantitatively and reinnervation of the target tissue is determined by behavioral testing.

            [This message was edited by Chris2 on 05-18-05 at 02:57 AM.]


              This was posted by Dr. Young in 2003 re the above report:

              Here is the abstract at the Society for Neuroscience. Very unfortunately, I missed this talk on Sunday. I am profoundly skeptical about these results. The news article also is misleading. The spinal cord was not transected. Just the corticospinal tract appeared to have been lesioned.


                I was getting really excited about this one.

                I didn't want to learn the inevitable truth.

                With SCI it's always bad news.


                  Check out the following links too:

                  link 1
                  Narongpunt V et al. "Infrared Thermographic Visualization of the Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Meridian Points." From the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. 2005 Vol. 16 (2).

                  Link 2
                  Schlebusch KP, Maric-Oehler W. Popp FA. "Biophotonics in the infrared spectral range reveal acupuncture meridian structure of the body. From the J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Feb; 11(1): 171-3

                  Albert Bohbot has only been 25 years ahead with his laserponcture.



                    Reading stories like this is like riding a roller coaster. Except instead of seeing the horizon at the top, it's every hope and dream you have for life with a cure. I wonder if the people who post these reports have any idea what it's like to be constantly let down.

                    I hope this one is true.

                    "I'm lost. I'm no guide, but I'm by your side." - Pearl Jam
                    "I'm lost. I'm no guide, but I'm by your side." - Pearl Jam

                    "It decomposes, mendicant, therefore, truly, one calls this the world." -- Loka Sutta


                      IMHO, This is exciting news and I'm waiting for our CC member Sue P, to post, she's got good sources and it's in her back yard. I don't know if this doctor would have used CURE in headline, but as said in the past it sure will sell papers, don't be quick to judge either way. DA's prediction? [img]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/img]

                      "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
                      Gandolf the Gray

                      2010 SCINet Clinical Trial Support Squad Member

                      "You kids and your cures, why back when I was injured they gave us a wheelchair and that's the way it was and we liked it!" Grumpy Old Man

                      .."i used to be able to goof around so much because i knew Superman had my back. now all i've got is his example -- and that's gonna have to be enough."


                        when was this article written?


                          How many methods do we have now that have made rats walk after a severed cord acute injury?

                          I swear i've read about 4 different methods that we've done to rats to make them have partial or full use of their rear legs. Anyone have a list of all the methods.


                            Hi Varian,

                            answer, a lot

                            sound like broken record but they will sit as long as CRPA sits.

                            a couple articles

                            "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
                            Gandolf the Grayhere

                            [This message was edited by Leo on 05-18-05 at 03:20 PM.]

                            2010 SCINet Clinical Trial Support Squad Member

                            "You kids and your cures, why back when I was injured they gave us a wheelchair and that's the way it was and we liked it!" Grumpy Old Man

                            .."i used to be able to goof around so much because i knew Superman had my back. now all i've got is his example -- and that's gonna have to be enough."


                              crap, trying again.



                              "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
                              Gandolf the Gray

                              2010 SCINet Clinical Trial Support Squad Member

                              "You kids and your cures, why back when I was injured they gave us a wheelchair and that's the way it was and we liked it!" Grumpy Old Man

                              .."i used to be able to goof around so much because i knew Superman had my back. now all i've got is his example -- and that's gonna have to be enough."