Two and a half years ago three surgeons teamed up, together with other specialists, at
The established treatment for permanently disabled SCI patients is purely supportive, meaning help towards less social discrimination, psychotherapy and physical therapy. Despite all those efforts, the nervous system, from the level of the injury down, remains cut off, and nothing is done to promote its reunion. Implantation of stem cells into the spinal cord is at present the one and only alternative to doing nothing for the core problem of CNS disruption.
Our team practices the autotransplantation of whole olfactory tissue (including stem cells) into the scar of the spinal cord of the patient. Autotransplantation means the donor and the recipient are the same person; this eliminates the problem of graft rejection. Olfactory tissue is used because it contains nervous tissue that regenerates quickly (the pace is about two weeks), due to its content of stem cells. It is also readily and conveniently harvested through the nose. According to available scientific data, tissue factors play a significant role in the survival and differentiation of implanted stem cells, this is why we use whole tissue and not merely cultured stem cells. The role of post op physiotherapy cannot be overemphasized, because the newly transplanted stem cells need to know what we like them to turn into, which becomes possible only through exposing them to tissue stimuli produced within the functioning nervous system. As Dr. Lima says, we need to reeducate the stem cell and the nervous system.
Our team comprises two neurosurgeons, Christos Gogos, MD and Dimitris Prokopakis, MD, one ear, nose and throat surgeon to harvest the graft, Aias-Theodoros Papastavrou, MD, the anaesthetist, Takis Kotsopoulos, MD, a physiatrist, Xanthi Michail, MD and many physiotherapists. We are based at
All the specialized teams that practice the same type of surgery and rehabilitation around the world (called OMA teams) are closely collaborating together towards the common goal: To help our patients regain sensation and mobility.
If you would like to participate in discussions concerning the options of SCI patients with permanent disability, you are invited to our public discussion forum: “Stem Cells for Paraplegia”.
There is also a web page in Greek, about the Athens project. You can visit it, if you can read Greek, that is.