The charity LIFE has welcomed news that a British woman paralysed in a riding accident six years ago is starting to recover feeling and movement in her legs following an operation in Portugal in which stem cells from her nose were implanted in her spine. (see Daily Telegraph, 6 December) Dr Carlos Lima at the Egaz Moniz Hospital in Lisbon has conducted the operation on 34 spine-injured patients so far. All have made some kind of recovery and are steadily improving. Some can now walk again unaided. LIFE trustee Nuala Scarisbrick said: "Here is yet further evidence that stem cells taken from the patients themselves offer the best chance of achieving a revolution in treatment of all kinds of diseases and repair of damaged spines, limbs and organs. We hear new stories about near-miracle cures almost every other day which show that we do not need stem cells taken from embryos or clones. "Thus on 30 November the Daily Telegraph reported that a Korean woman paralysed for almost 20 years was walking again after doctors at Seoul National University injected stem cells from umbilical cord blood into her spine. The October edition of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine carried a major report on stem cell therapy confirming that adult stem cells were likely to produce more fruitful results and much sooner than experiments using stem cells from IVF or cloned embryos." Dr Lima said: "Mother Nature made embryonic stem cells to proliferate and adult cells to replace and repair. When you put these cells [from your nose] in your spinal cord, they're yours, it's natural, you've got an environment which is a friendly one and so the cells will grow." A British team at the Spinal Repair Unit at University College London confirms Dr Lima's findings. Olfactory cells transplanted into the injured spinal cords of rats have shown a remarkable ability to fuse with the damaged ones to 'bridge' the gaps in the nervous system - without the need of immunosuppressive drugs to stop tissue rejection. This therapy will "get people out of wheelchairs; make stroke patients get better; restore the optic nerve in blindness and the auditory nerve in deafness," says Professor Raisman, director of the British Unit. LIFE repeats the call to scientists and the Government to focus on adult stem cell therapy and on medical as well as ethical grounds - not to go down the cloning route, not to engage in yet more embryo abuse. From all around the world comes evidence that the future lies with using stem cells taken from the patient themselves.
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