Background: Although the transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) after spinal cord injury (SCI) has shown promising results in animals, less is known about the effects of autologous MSCs in human SCI.
Objective: To describe the long-term results of 10 patients who underwent intramedullary direct MSCs transplantation into injured spinal cords.
Methods: Autologous MSCs were harvested from the iliac bone of each patient and expanded by culturing for 4 weeks. MSCs (8 × 10) were directly injected into the spinal cord, and 4 × 10 cells were injected into the intradural space of 10 patients with American Spinal Injury Association class A or B injury caused by traumatic cervical SCI. After 4 and 8 weeks, an additional 5 × 10 MSCs were injected into each patient through lumbar tapping. Outcome assessments included changes in the motor power grade of the extremities, magnetic resonance imaging, and electrophysiological recordings.
Results: Although 6 of the 10 patients showed motor power improvement of the upper extremities at 6-month follow-up, 3 showed gradual improvement in activities of daily living, and changes on magnetic resonance imaging such as decreases in cavity size and the appearance of fiber-like low signal intensity streaks. They also showed electrophysiological improvement. All 10 patients did not experience any permanent complication associated with MSC transplantation.
Conclusion: Three of the 10 patients with SCI who were directly injected with autologous MSCs showed improvement in the motor power of the upper extremities and in activities of daily living, as well as significant magnetic resonance imaging and electrophysiological changes during long-term follow-up.