New breakthrough in paralysis treatment reported

Brazilian scientists claim to have restored feeling to patients paralysed for two years or more, reports Marina Murphy in this issue of Chemistry & Industry Magazine.

The report previews research carried out at the University of San Paulo, Brazil. Scientists lead by Tarciscio Barros at the University’s School of Medicine harvested stem cells from the blood of 30 patients with spinal cord injury and reintroduced them via injection into the artery supplying the damaged area. After a few months, Barros claims, 12 of these patients were found to be responding to electrical stimulation of the paralysed limbs.

“Two to six months after treatment, we found that some patients were showing signs of responding to somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) tests,” says Barros. He believes they may still see some improvement in the other patients.

There are still question marks over the research. Sam Pfaff, professor of molecular biology at the US Salk Institute of Biological Sciences gives his comments in the Chemistry & Industry report. “Nothing like this has been done in humans before, but the worry is that human studies have tended to be unscientific,” says Pfaff. He also raises ethical issues: “Our concern is that stem cells have the potential to keep growing. They may even do more harm than good”.

Barros’s research is currently being reviewed for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and he has been given permission by the University of San Paulo’s Ethical Committee to extend the study to new patients.

A full copy of the article is available from the SCI Press Office: Email: Tel 020 7 598 1573 or 1571

Other news from Chemistry & Industry Magazine – embargo date 17 November 2003

New nasal drug could rival Viagra
Trial results of a new drug suggest that a different approach to sexual dysfunction could help both men and women improve performance and confidence in bed. Chemistry & Industry reports on PT-141, a nasally-administered drug from US company Palatin Technologies.

Unlike Viagra, which works on blocking enzymes in the vascular system, the new treatment acts on receptors in the brain that stimulate sexual arousal, suggesting that the drug may be useful for treating sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

In the company’s own phase IIb study, 70% of patients who had taken Viagra in the past reported PT-141 to be “equally or more effective”. Some patients also reported that they could feel the new drug start to take effect. They said this had the added benefit of increasing their confidence and reducing anxiety over performance.

A full copy of the article is available from the SCI Press Office: Email: Tel 020 7 598 1573 or 1571

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