Array

Israeli research gives hope for spinal cord injuries

What’s the most catastrophic illness that can befall us?

To me it’s a spinal cord injury (SCI) that results in total paralysis.

During a recent visit to Israel I interviewed Dr. Shimon Rochkind, world-renowned neurosurgeon at the Tel Aviv University Sourasky Medical Center, an expert on SCI.

Every year 12,000 North Americans sustain spinal cord injury.

The people involved are usually under the age of 30 and 80% are males. Some, like Christopher Reeves of Superman fame, fall from a horse.

Others dive into shallow water or are involved in car accidents.

Dr. Rochkind has spent his life trying to accomplish what’s said to be impossible. Time and time again we’ve been told that some tissues of the body can regenerate, but never the spinal cord.

Christopher Reeves received the best treatment money can buy but he never walked again. What I witnessed in Rochkind’s laboratory shows that what we’ve accepted as gospel for centuries is no longer true.

Rochkind first showed me motion pictures of a rat running around his cage. Later he surgically removed half a centimeter (a quarter of an inch) of the rat’s spinal cord which resulted in complete paralysis of the hind legs. Normally without a complete spinal cord the rat would never walk again.

But motion photos taken several weeks later revealed that the rat was now moving his legs. It was not doing so as perfectly as before, but good enough to get quickly around his cage.

So what had Dr. Rochkind done to partially reverse the paralysis?

He had to overcome several problems. First, to bridge the gap between the severed nerve. Then to nourish the nerve and stimulate its growth.

Finally to encourage the first step as one does with an infant.

The first solution was to develop what Rochkind calls a “genetically-engineered implant” thousands of times more difficult than designing a hip replacement.

This meant experimenting with several different types of tissue. One implant involved human spinal cord cells. But a major advance was his eventual discovery that it was possible to use cells taken from the lining of the adult human nose.

What tissue will be used in the final implant is unknown. But at the moment it’s composed of a highly complex assortment of hyaluronic acid, neuronal growth factor, antioxidants such as Vitamin C and other ingredients.

This mass of material is encompassed in a soft biodegradable tube placed between the severed nerve endings. This acts as a scaffold for the implant.

Had he lived, would Christopher Reeve have walked again?

Rochkind is convinced that the possibility will happen in his lifetime. It may not be the perfect walk but patients with these injuries will not be immobilized for the rest of their lives.

Not all nerve injuries, however, are spinal cord ones.

For instance, some involve the peripheral nerves of the arm or legs. It’s the type of injury that cripples thousands of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and other war sites.

Rochkind’s laboratory is making great advances with these injuries.

The big problem has always been the rapid loss of muscle mass once a nerve is injured. After all, what’s the use of regenerating the nerve if there’s no muscle tissue left to function?

For these peripheral injuries Rochkind is using laser phototherapy which provides an immediate protective effect.

This therapy not only helps to prevent muscle loss, but also helps to regenerate nerves and aids in restoring muscle mass. Laser therapy is given two hours a day for 21 days. The sooner it is started the better the results.

Researchers in Israel are also trying to use stem cells to produce dopamine, the substance lacking in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Or using stem cells to help failing hearts.

I left Israel impressed and amazed at how this tiny country with no natural resources, fighting for its very existence since 1948, could accomplish so much in research. As they say it’s not the size of the dog that wins the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

And I’d predict that Dr. Rochkind’s innovative work is headed for a Nobel Prize in medicine.

See the web site www.docgiff.com. For comments info@docgiff.com.

Just Posted

WATCH: Over 10,000 lbs of pet food given out to help Red Deer’s vulnerable

Alberta Animal Services and Red Deer Food Bank’s Kitchen Kibble will feed hundreds

Local coalition seeks to bolster youngsters’ development

‘Strengthening Positive Assets Resiliency in Communities’ supports local families

Central Alberta Humane Society presents cat yoga

Proceeds will be used to care for the shelter animals

Innisfail RCMP respond to fatal vehicle collision

A 22-year-old driver was ejected and pronounced deceased on scene

Central Alberta Buccaneers pillage Vandals 64-19

Bucs’ notch second win of the season convincingly

Canada won’t ‘play politics’ on U.S. migrant children policy

The U.S. government is under fire over its ”zero tolerance” policy

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

National sports organizations have to report allegations of abuse immediately

Sporting organizations will lose federal funding if abuse goes unreported, says Kirsty Duncan

Former Somali child refugee fights to stay in Canada

Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax

U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Several Republicans to break from President Donald Trump amid boarder separation issues

AFN chief accused of being too close to Trudeau

Perry Bellegarde insists he is not that close to the Liberals as elections looms

Three injured after industrial explosion in Newfoundland

The roof of the warehouse was blown off in the explosion near St. John’s

Most Read