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Stem Cells: The What, Why and How

As a lot of you are aware, Casey is off in America going about her first stem cell treatment. I wanted to jump on here and give you all some information about the reasons for why she is doing that, what we are expecting and what the plan is after her treatment.

Casey has been working extremely hard at her recovery from her spinal cord injury and has made some huge progress in her walking ability through our activity based therapy program. She has also managed to maintain extremely good muscle tone and joint range of motion, two things that wheelchair users can struggle with, when they don’t have access to proper rehabilitation methods. With this being said, we feel like the time is right to add something different to help encourage more new function while she is such good shape and still progressing with her rehab. There is some evidence that stem cells can repair damage in different areas of the body including the spinal cord and hopefully this might allow some signals to get through, thus allowing her to either feel new parts of her body or access different areas to what she can now however the research is still fairly new to spinal cord injury.

So what are cells and how do they work?

Stem cells are special cells in our body with the ability to develop into many different types of cell within the body. Like a master cell that can then be made into any different type of cell that the body needs such as muscle cells, blood cells and nerve cells! Stem cells are found in various tissues and organs throughout our own bodies and naturally replenish themselves. Stem cells hold promise for spinal cord injuries because they can potentially regenerate damaged tissue, promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation. When introduced into the injured area, they may help restore lost function by replacing damaged cells or supporting the growth of new ones. There is a lot more research to be done to completely understand the full mechanism but it is awesome that we can access this therapy while it is still being researched. Casey goes through two stem cell treatments that put as many in as possible straight into her spinal cord where it is damaged and then some throughout her body as well thus allowing these incredible cells the best areas to access.

To give them the best possible chance at working and helping Casey’s recovery, we are going to be changing and adding a few new things to her rehab routine. The doctors and previous people who have these cells strongly recommend intense therapy after transplantation. She already does 4-5 days of rehab at NextStep and will come back to doing 5 days a week of rehab with more locomotor training on the treadmill, neuromuscular electrical stimulation and activity based therapy to activate and send through as many signals as possible up and down her spinal cord asking the stem cells to repair the damaged area so these signals can get through. We are also adding in a full supplement regime to make sure her body is as healthy as possible to provide the stem cells the best environment to work in. There is also evidence to suggest that using hyperbaric oxygen therapy can add to the effectiveness of stem cell recovery so we wil be using a chamber daily for that. Casey will also be doing daily functional electrical with the bike to add extra input to her nervous system and muscle function. This is going to be a lot of work but will give the stem cells the best chance to get where they need to go and hopefully create some changes that we can work with.

As you can see the stem cells are an adjunct to therapy that allows us to hopefully add more new areas of function but it is not a quick fix. Stem cells give us the opportunity to speed up the natural recovery process and directly target areas of damage for repair that works perfectly with her current rehabilitation regime. I want to stress the importance of all the work Casey has done to make sure her body is in peak physical preparation for this and all the work she is undertaking upon her return to have the best possible chance at recovery, without this I would recommend getting your body in as good as physical readiness as it can be before exploring the likes of stem cells. Watch her and our social media channels for all the progress and keep up to date! If you have any questions, I am more than happy to discuss this with you.


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