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14
Apr

Two years ago, Brenda Guerra’s life changed forever.

Guerra said, “They told me that I went into a ditch and was ejected out of the vehicle.” The accident left the 26-year-old paralyzed from the waist down, and confined to a wheelchair. “I don’t feel any of my lower body at all” she said.

Brenda has travelled from Kansas to UC San Diego to be the first patient to participate in a ground-breaking safety trial, testing stem cells for paralysis.

Joseph D. Ciacci, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery at UC San Diego said, “We are directly injecting the stem cells into the spine.”

The stem cells come from fetal spinal cords. The idea is when they’re transplanted they will develop into new neurons and bridge the gap created by the injury by replacing severed or lost nerve connections. They did that in animals and doctors are hoping for similar results in humans. The ultimate goal is to help people like Brenda walk again.

“The ability to walk is obviously a big deal not only in quality of life issues, but it also affects your survival long-term” Dr. Ciacci said.

Brenda received her injection and will be followed for five long years. She knows it’s only a safety trial but she’s hoping for the best.

This is the first study to inject neural stem cells into people with complete thoracic spinal cord injuries. Participants must have had their injury occur one to two years ago and have to have feeling in their upper bodies. Researchers will enroll four patients in the safety trial, and then they hope to move on to a larger phase of the study.

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