An American woman suffering from paralysis volunteered for experimental surgery at Hospital de Egas Moniz in Lisbon, Portugal. Doctors took stem cells from the woman’s nose and implanted them in her spine, hoping that the cells would help her spinal cord regenerate nerve tissue. Other clinical trials involve growing these cells in the lab and classifying and separating desirable cells before transplant. The procedure on this woman, which took place nine years ago, omitted this step. The cells were transplanted directly to her spine, but they failed to regenerate her spinal tissue. Then last year, she was treated in the U.S. for a painful growth in her back.
The surgeons removed a 3-centimetre-long growth, which was found to be mainly nasal tissue, as well as bits of bone and tiny nerve branches that had not connected with the spinal nerves.
The growth wasn't cancerous, but it was secreting a "thick copious mucus-like material", which is probably why it was pressing painfully on her spine, says Brian Dlouhy at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, the neurosurgeon who removed the growth. The results of the surgery have now been published.
The team in Lisbon reports that about 140 patients have received the same therapeutic procedure, and that most showed signs of improvement. Still, it’s a cautionary tale that reminds us that stem cell research is still in its infancy. Read the story at NewScientist, with more thoughts from a stem cell researcher here. -via Science Chamber of Horrors
(Unrelated image from Wikimedia Commons)