Spinal cord injuries and stem cell treatment

19 May 2021

What is spinal cord injury?
The spinal cord is made up of nerves extending from the brain. These nerves carry messages to our body. Every function in the body depends on these nerves, from moving, feeling and understanding sensations like temperature, as well as our breathing, blood pressure, bladder and bowel functions.

An injury to the spinal cord can cause permanent damage to these functions. Causes of such an injury might be from trauma such as a road traffic accident, or an infection or disease.

If you would to know more about spinal cord injury, you may find Richard Lodge’s blog Spinal Injury Awareness Day and Laura Sylvester’s blog Causes of Spinal Cord Injury interesting.

Stem cell research
A study by Yale University and investigators at Sapporo Medical University in Japan has found that intravenous injections of stem cells can give a significant improvement in the motor functions of patients with spinal cord injury.

You may have heard about stem cells in the news or press, and you might even have experience of treatment that uses them. Stem cells are cells in the body which are able to develop into many different more specialised cells, such as muscle or brain cells.

Stem cells may contribute to repair by replacing nerve cells that have died as a result of the spinal cord injury, or generating new cells to re-form damaged tissue and stimulate re-growth. It may also prevent the injury worsening by controlling inflammation.

The stem cells in this study were taken from the patients’ bone marrow. They had all experienced non-penetrating spinal cord injuries, such as those from a fall or trauma. Their symptoms were wide ranging, including loss of motor function and coordination, sensory loss, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction. Over half of these individuals experienced a significant improvement in these functions, such as walking or using their hands.

The scientists carrying out the study stressed that further investigation was needed to confirm the results, but that this showed early promise for the future. Similar results have also followed from a study into stem cell treatment for patients who have suffered a stroke. 

This news suggests that in the future stem cell technology may be able to restore function, and so restore independence, to a person who has suffered a brain or spinal injury.

As a Business Member of the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) we welcome advances that further the needs of individuals who have sustained a spinal injury. If you, or someone you care about, has been affected by the conditions mentioned in this article and are considering seeking legal advice, please contact one of our specialist spinal and back injury lawyers on enquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk or call us on 0207 814 1200.


At Kingsley Napley we have significant experience in dealing with claims following these types of injury. If this has been your experience, or that of someone you care about, please contact one of our specialist spinal and back injury lawyers on enquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk or call us on 0207 814 1200.



Terrence Donovan is the Head of the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Department.  He has a national reputation, and is one of the most respected and senior solicitors in the field.

Phoebe Alexander joined Kingsley Napley in 2020. She is currently a trainee solicitor in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team. Her previous seat was with the Private Client team, where she assisted with the administration of trusts and estates, and the drafting of Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney. Phoebe also assisted with Court of Protection matters, including the drafting of Deputyship applications.


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