Autograft-derived spinal cord mass following olfactory mucosal cell transplantation in a spinal cord injury patient: Case report

J Neurosurg Spine. 2014 Oct;21(4):618-22. doi: 10.3171/2014.5.SPINE13992. Epub 2014 Jul 8.


Over the last decade, human cell transplantation and neural stem cell trials have examined the feasibility and safety of these potential therapies for treatment of a variety of neurological disorders. However, significant safety concerns have surrounded these trials due to the possibility of ectopic, uncontrolled cellular growth and tumor formation. The authors present the case of an 18-year-old woman who sustained a complete spinal cord injury at T10-11. Three years after injury, she remained paraplegic and underwent olfactory mucosal cell implantation at the site of injury. She developed back pain 8 years later, and imaging revealed an intramedullary spinal cord mass at the site of cell implantation, which required resection. Intraoperative findings revealed an expanded spinal cord with a multicystic mass containing large amounts of thick mucus-like material. Histological examination and immunohistochemical staining revealed that the mass was composed mostly of cysts lined by respiratory epithelium, submucosal glands with goblet cells, and intervening nerve twigs. This is the first report of a human spinal cord mass complicating spinal cord cell transplantation and neural stem cell therapy. Given the prolonged time to presentation, safety monitoring of all patients with cell transplantation and neural stem cell implantation should be maintained for many years.

Keywords: EMA = epithelial membrane antigen; GFAP = glial fibrillary acidic protein; OEC = olfactory ensheathing cell; SCI = spinal cord injury; cell transplantation; human; olfactory ensheathing cells; olfactory mucosa; oncology; spinal cord injury; stem cells; tumor.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Adolescent
  • Autografts
  • Choristoma / etiology
  • Choristoma / pathology*
  • Cysts / etiology*
  • Cysts / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Olfactory Mucosa / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / surgery*
  • Spinal Cord*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae