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October, 2009 Newsletter of the Joseph Groh Foundation

Welcome to the first newsletter from The Joseph Groh Foundation. This newsletter is not only intended to be read online, but will be e-mailed to those who sign up on the home page of the website. The purpose of the newsletter is to provide current news and information important to those suffering from spinal cord or other life altering injuries and illnesses.

One of the topics many spinal cord injury patients are talking about is the potential for stem cell therapy to improve their lives. The following article discusses some early successes with innovative stem cell therapy which is taking place in Europe.

Cell Research at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The XCell-Center is a private clinic group and institute for regenerative medicine located in Düsseldorf and Cologne, Germany. They offer patients with degenerative diseases the opportunity to undergo innovative and promising stem cell treatment.

Since the start in January 2007, more than 1600 patients have safely undergone various stem cell treatments, according to the organization.

The XCell-Center´s newly inaugurated headquarters are located at the Dominikus hospital in Düsseldorf, one of Germany's economic and cultural centers. The second branch is the well established XCell-Center Cologne, located at the Eduardus Hospital's Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

Most injuries to the spinal cord don't completely sever it. Instead, an injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the hair vertebrae, which then crush and destroy the axons, extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body.

An injury to the spinal cord can damage a few, many, or almost all of these axons. Some injuries will allow almost complete recovery, others will result in complete paralysis.

At the XCell Center, stem cells are first collected from a patient's bone marrow, extracted from the hipbone, and then implanted back into the body days later. Prior to re-implantation of the cells, the bone marrow is processed in one of their labs, where the quantity and quality of the stem cells is also checked. These re-injected stem cells have the potential to transform into multiple types of cells and are capable of regenerating damaged tissue.

Follow up statistics from 85 spinal cord injury patients completed in March 2009 show that nearly 60% experienced improvements after stem cell therapy. These improvements were reported by patients with both incomplete and complete injuries (see Story 1 on home page for definitions related to spinal cord injuries) in almost equal proportions. There was no apparent correlation between positive outcome and the number of stem cells administered.

Regaining sensation (feeling warm or cold sensations/ touch) was reported by 40% of patients. 25% reported increased muscle strength and improved endurance. For more information, visit http://www.xcell-center.com.

Cold Weather Tips for Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Problems with temperature regulation happen in people with cervical and high thoracic injuries. Autonomic control of body temperature is lost in spinal cord injury patients, therefore their body temperature changes in the direction of the environment. Body heat dissipates rapidly outdoors in quadriplegic patients, so consequently they can only spend a short period of time outdoors before sustaining significant temperature drops.

Now that cold weather is on the horizon, the following tips are recommended by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures and wear layers of warm clothing.
  • Make sure hands and feet are kept dry and well covered to avoid frostbite.
  • Beware of indications that your body temperature is falling. Feeling chilled and teeth chatter are typical symptoms.
  • If your body temperature is low, cover up with blankets. Avoid heat packs as you may not sense the extreme temperature, causing spurious burns.
  • If your temperature remains low despite measures taken above, contact your doctor. Hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition, occurs when body temperature falls below 95°F.