19 December 2010

If I were a monkey, I'd be jumping, too

Everyone has good days and bad days. People in wheelchairs have them, too, but sometimes they are a little more pronounced than able-bodied people. Bad days tend to have a bigger impact on our bodies. 

Lately, my good days are far outnumbering my bad days, and this is good and bad. Good because I can get through the day without being uncomfortable or irritated, and that makes daily life easier to handle. Reintegration into society becomes a little more doable if you're not feeling like crap because of pain, or 'pins and needles', or a sore bum.

The bad point to good days for those with spinal cord injuries, or other chronic conditions, is that it fools us into thinking that life in a wheelchair isn't so bad. That living in the chair for life wouldn't be so bad. That maybe there is no need to fight for a cure when you're having so many 'good' days.

So I regularly need to remind myself that regardless how smooth things are going for me, I have to continue my fight to get cured. The point is to walk again, not to like my chair. 

Of course, if a cure weren't possible, then maybe resigning yourself would be best, but recent announcements this year regarding stem cell based cures for spinal cord injury, tell me that we are close, but your help is necessary.

The point of this blog was never to be a scientific journal, but to point out to people how possible, the once unimaginable, has become. There is no sense in me telling you to fight for a cure for spinal cord injury if you don't believe that it's possible, or if the science doesn't exist. 

Science is doing terrific things right now that will affect me and others you may know, in the very near future, but we won't get these things without pushing our own governments to speed up the process and spending the necessary resources to get us a cure.

Here is a big announcement from Japan just this month.

The first is an announcement made in here in Japan just a few weeks ago. With the use of  induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells - basically your own cells turned back into an embryonic state which can therefore become any type of cell) once paralyzed monkeys are getting unparalyzed. These monkeys were paralyzed from the neck down and within a week they got back their hand strength and could stand. Six weeks later they were jumping; jumping for joy, I bet.

Now there are still problems with iPS cells. There is a fear of the cells turning into cancer, but these monkeys haven't had a hint of cancer after three months. It also takes a lot of time to create the cells. In this case it took six months, but the monkeys got their cell transplants after only nine days of being paralyzed. There is still a long way to go, but it's getting closer.

But the most important thing about these cells is that they were first created from mice cells in 2006 and then in human cells in 2007. Three years later, they are being used to treat spinal cord injury in animals. That's speed, and shows how far stem cell research for spinal cord injury has come.

Compare this with embryonic stem cells and you'll see how quickly things are moving. In 1981, mouse embryonic stem cells were first isolated and grown. It took 17 years to be able to do the same with human embryonic stem cells, and then took another seven years to be able to use them on paralyzed mice. It wasn't until this year, four years after the mice walked, before they were even tried on humans. We're still awaiting the results of these safety studies, but this will be very interesting.

I'm not trying to push one type of cell over the other. Just trying to show how fast things are going and that the
science to get me out of this chair is here. Now if we can only get governments behind this, I'll be jumping, too.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, i am also waiting and excited about these news.
    Keep up the good work to keep us updated.
    Best wishes!