UF Researchers Report Nerve Tissue Transplant Recipient Is Stable

Published: October 27 1997

Category:Health, Research

GAINESVILLE—A North Florida man who was the nation’s first person to undergo an experimental nerve tissue transplant to slow the progression of spinal cord damage remains stable 3 « months after the operation, say University of Florida researchers who performed the procedure.

The 43-year-old man received the transplant July 11 at Shands hospital at UF.

UF physicians announced the results Saturday at the National Neurotrauma Symposium, held in New Orleans in conjunction with the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. On Wednesday, they discharged a second patient, a 50-year-old Central Florida man paralyzed after a motorcycle accident. The man, who underwent the procedure Oct. 10, will continue to recuperate in a rehabilitation hospital.

The experimental treatment involved injecting small pieces of human embryonic spinal cord cells directly into an expanding cavity — also known as a cyst — that sometimes forms at the site of a specific type of spinal cord injury. The condition can cause unbearable pain and progressive loss of sensation and movement.

The cells were taken from aborted tissue, 6 to 9 weeks old, which otherwise would have been discarded. The tissue was obtained from health-care facilities not affiliated with the university.

“This is very early in our evaluation stage,” said UF neurosurgeon Richard Fessler, who performed the transplants. “Our first patient’s cyst was very complicated; it was walled off into many small compartments. The areas in which we did not transplant look the same, but the areas in which we did transplant the cyst did not recur, so we’re very encouraged by that.”

Fessler and his colleagues at the UF Brain Institute performed the procedures to test the safety and feasibility of the grafts, which in landmark laboratory studies have helped injured cats regain some use of their paralyzed limbs.

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Writer
Melanie Fridl Ross

Category:Health, Research