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A Phase III Clinical Trial Showing Limited Efficacy of Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury

Oh, Sun Kyu MD; Choi, Kyoung Hyo MD, PhD; Yoo, Jong Yoon MD, PhD; Kim, Dae Yul MD, PhD; Kim, Sang Joon MD, PhD; Jeon, Sang Ryong MD, PhD


BACKGROUND: In our previous report, 3 of 10 patients with spinal cord injury who were injected with autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) showed motor improvement in the upper extremities and in activities of daily living.

OBJECTIVE: To report on the results of a phase III clinical trial of autologous MSCs therapy.

METHODS: Patients were selected based on the following criteria: chronic American Spinal Injury Association B status patients who had more than 12 months of cervical injury, and no neurological changes during the recent 3 months of vigorous rehabilitation. We injected 1.6 × 107 autologous MSCs into the intramedullary area at the injured level and 3.2 × 107autologous MSCs into the subdural space. Outcome data were collected over 6 months regarding neurological examination, magnetic resonance imaging with diffusion tensor imaging, and electrophysiological analyses.

RESULTS: Among the 16 patients, only 2 showed improvement in neurological status (unilateral right C8 segment from grade 1 to grade 3 in 1 patient and bilateral C6 from grade 3 to grade 4 and unilateral right C8 from grade 0 to grade 1 in 1 patient). Both patients with neurological improvement showed the appearance of continuity in the spinal cord tract by diffusion tensor imaging. There were no adverse effects associated with MSCs injection.

CONCLUSION: Single MSCs application to intramedullary and intradural space is safe, but has a very weak therapeutic effect compared with multiple MSCs injection. Further clinical trials to enhance the effect of MSCs injection are necessary.

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