Monday, November 30, 2009

Sullen Schoolboy Saves Shivering SCI Man

A paralyzed man trapped when his car drove off an upstate New York road and plummeted down an embankment survived for 30 hours despite freezing temperatures and internal bleeding.

Christopher Drake has been paralyzed from the waist down almost all his life. He used his arms to drag himself to the top of the embankment after the Thursday morning crash off Route 97 in western Sullivan County. But he slipped and rolled back to the bottom.

Police say Drake was too tired to try again, so he took shelter in his car to help fight the cold. He had no cell phone.

More than 24 hours after the crash, the car was noticed by a 14-year-old boy looking out the window of a bus on his way home from school.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Electric Wheelchair for the Masses

Self-Taught Inventor Creates Homemade Electric Wheelchair

Li Rongbiao, a 67 year old pensioner and inventer, is making headlines in China because of his handmade electric chairs. Also known as the Walking Chair, it is assembled from spare parts and consists of spare wheels that ease stairway access for wheelchairs.
Walking Chair
Rongbiao started playing around with the idea of an affordable electric wheelchair when his wife ended up with a broken leg. It so happened that in this period, they faced a number of hassles, including difficulty accessing their fifth floor apartment.

That’s how this self-made inventer found himself buying computer books and looking for financing for his project.

However, the building of the chair took a bit of time since Rongbiao first had to handle all the basics. Thus, he taught himself computer designing for 6 months before spending the rest of the year constructing his dream chair.

As for funding, the innovator was so dedicated to this dream that he pooled all of his income into this project.

This included his savings, pension money as well as odd $70,000 he made from the sale of his apartment.

All this effort is not in vain as his Walking Chair is gaining popularity in China.

In fact, after he demonstrated his invention at one of the biggest disability shows in China, he has been receiving orders for the electric chair. And so, following his visit to this expo, interested parties have bought 30 of his Walking Chairs and there is still a backlog of more than 300 orders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Disabled Actors Not Gleeful

LOS ANGELES — The glee club members twirl their wheelchairs to the tune of "Proud Mary" and in joyful solidarity with Artie, the fellow performer who must use his chair even when the music stops.

The scene in Wednesday's episode of the hit Fox series "Glee," which regularly celebrates diversity and the underdog, is yet another uplifting moment — except to those in the entertainment industry with disabilities and their advocates.

For them, the casting of a non-disabled actor to play the paraplegic high school student is another blown chance to hire a performer who truly fits the role.

"I think there's a fear of litigation, that a person with disabilities might slow a production down, fear that viewers might be uncomfortable," said Robert David Hall, longtime cast member of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

All of that is nonsense, said Hall: "I've made my living as an actor for 30 years and I walk on two artificial legs."

Hall, 61, chair of a multi-union committee for performers with disabilities, is part of a small band of such steadily working actors on TV that includes Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, star of Fox's "Brothers"; teenager RJ Mitte of AMC's "Breaking Bad"; and ABC's "Private Practice" newcomer Michael Patrick Thornton.

Veteran actress Geri Jewell, who has cerebral palsy, appeared on HBO's now-departed "Deadwood."
Mitchell, 44, whose credits included "Veronica's Closet" and the film "Galaxy Quest" before he was injured in a motorcycle accident and "Ed" after he began using a wheelchair, is also a producer on the Sunday sitcom that's in need of higher ratings if it is to survive.

For Mitchell, "Brothers" represents more than just another show: He calls it "a movement" that deserves support from the wider disabled community as well as the industry.

"This is what my life is. This is what I want the world to see," he said. "I want to hold the networks accountable. If I can come out and do what I'm doing, they can come to the table."

It's not just TV that falls short of what Mitchell and others seek, including auditioning those with disabilities for roles that echo their situation and for roles in which it is irrelevant. (Then it's up to them to prove they deserve the job, Hall said.)


Champion Athletic Refuses to be Teated Like Potato Sack

Kurt Fearnley had just crawled along a 60-mile jungle track in Papua New Guinea.

But when he arrived at Brisbane airport a few days later, Jetstar— an offshoot of Qantas airlines — asked him to check in his wheelchair.

The Australian budget airline offered him its own wheelchair, specially designed for planes, but told Fearnley he would have to be pushed by airline staff.

Fearnley, who won marathon gold in the Beijing and Athens Paralympics, was insulted at being asked to give up his independence.

He said the equivalent for an able-bodied person "would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport."

In protest, he rejected the airline's wheelchair and dragged himself through the terminal, in and out of the toilet, and onto the plane.

Jetstar has now issued an apology, saying any embarrassment and hurt was not intentional.

It said its policy for passengers in wheelchairs was for them to transfer to the airline wheelchair, which is more maneuverable on the plane, at the boarding gate.

Jetstar have now assured Fearnley they are working on an alternative boarding procedure for disabled passengers.

He said: "As long as that's going ahead, I'm more than happy."

Since the incident, a man from Melbourne has said he spent six days in hospital after he fell out of a Jetstar wheelchair while being pushed by staff.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Think Before You Leap

medical tourism
Warnings are being issued by experts of the dangers of medical tourism saying that unproven stem cell therapy overseas could leave patients worse off.

Signing up for stem cell therapy is worth the risk for many people who are suffering with conditions like spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron or Parkinson’s disease.

A medical journal reported earlier this year that an Israeli teenager developed brain tumors after experimental injections at a Russian clinic.

There are alternate reports also of patients contracting meningitis after treatments in China.

A handbook will be released by the Australian Stem Cell Centre to help patients analyze radial stem cell treatments abroad.

Experts, however, are warning patients against taking the risk with radical treatments abroad.
The Australian Stem Cell Centre Clinical adviser Dr Kirsten Herbert says that three patients contracted meningitis after stem cell treatment in China because of spinal cord injuries.

He also adds that cancer too is a possible side-effect although the likelihood is very rare.
It is important to not demoralize people who are seeking these cures but they must be helped in finding the right advice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paralyzed Woman Denied Right to Take CA Law Exam, Wins, Passes

Sara Granda, the woman paralyzed from the neck down who was able to take the state bar examination only after the governor and the State Supreme Court intervened, passed the bar today.

"Sara has overcome so much in her life and today I congratulate her for once again persevering and passing the California Bar Exam," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. "Her hard work, dedication and outlook on life" are an inspiration and prove that "opportunity lies in every obstacle," he said.

"She is a fighter and today I join Sara, her family and friends and all Californians as we celebrate her tremendous achievement," he said.

Granda, 29, can breathe only with a respirator, the result of a car crash when she was 17. Since the accident, she has earned three college degrees, including one in May from the UC Davis School of Law.

Confusion over her registration fee led to the State Bar of California's determination that she was ineligible for the exam because it had no application when the June 15 deadline passed.

Schwarzenegger, wrote a letter to the members of the Supreme Court, urging them to grant Granda's petition to be allowed to take the exam.

In a 6-0 ruling on July 27, the high court granted Granda's petition for what is called a "writ of mandate," directing the State Bar to let her take the exam.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Power Soccer

For an athlete, a spinal cord injury cannot only change how you live, but who you are.

Chris Finn said he was in the best shape of his life before a spinal cord injury. For 10 years, he searched for a sport he could play. He finally found it: power soccer.

"It changed my life," said Finn, the 38-year-old coach of Team USA.

The sport changed Michael Archer's life, too.

Archer, a 19-year-old IUPUI student from Greenwood, has arthrogryposis, which causes joint contractures before birth. Archer said he could walk using a walker until sixth grade, when he began using a motorized wheelchair. At first, he said, he couldn't stay on the sidewalk. Now, he is an athletic whiz kid.
Archer watched siblings play soccer and softball, and yearned for a sport he could do, too.

"Once I got into power soccer, that was actually the first really competitive sport that I was able to play," Archer said. "I just want to keep playing it."

He played on the U.S. team that won the 2007 World Cup in Japan. He is one of seven Indianapolis-area athletes attending a selection camp this week at Eagle Church in Whitestown. A national team is being chosen for the 2011 World Cup, and Indianapolis is a possible location for the tournament. The U.S. Power Soccer Association is headquartered here.

Others attending the camp include Case Calvert and Mathew Griffin, Indianapolis; Natalie and JC Russo, Carmel; and Jordan and Katie Dickey, Pendleton.
Finn, 38, knows the joy the sport can bring.

In 2002, the first time he stepped onto a power soccer court, he rolled the ball across the floor -- and into the goal. This, he told himself, is for me.

"I remember playing soccer out in the backyard, a 10-year-old kid dreaming I was going to be the next Pele, playing in the World Cup," Finn recalled. "This was my chance to fulfill that dream."


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Georgia Bulldog Paralyzed

Chance Veazey was living out his dream. He had a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Georgia. He impressed his coach so much during fall workouts that he was already penciled in as the starting second baseman.

Tragedy struck before Veazey made it to opening day.

Late last month, the freshman wrapped up a routine study session at the campus learning center, hopped on his scooter and drove out into the night. He never made it to where he was going, colliding with a car along the way. Sprawled out on the ground, he couldn't feel anything in his legs.

Veazey, it turned out, had sustained a devastating spinal cord injury.

The grim diagnosis: paralyzed below the waist.

"I can't begin to imagine what's going through his head,'' Georgia coach David Perno said Thursday, shortly after the first details of Veazey's injury were made public. "There will be no one on our team feeling sorry for themselves anymore, I can tell you that. This was life changing not only for me, but a lot of people close to him.''

Veazey was injured Oct. 28 - the first night of the World Series, strangely enough - and transferred about a week later to the Shepherd Center. There he is learning how to live from a wheelchair and perhaps girding himself to face the reality that he may never walk again.

"We're only three weeks into it,'' said Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, Shepherd's medical director. "I don't think (he's given up on the) hope that something miraculous is going to happen, that the light is going to suddenly turn on. We've seen it happen. We wish it happened more. But we have got to help him deal with the possibility, the probability, that it may not. That's very important.''

Over the years, Shepherd has worked with more than 50,000 victims of spinal cord injuries, including hockey player Travis Roy, who was left a quadriplegic by a freak injury on the very first shift of his very first college game. Veazey never made it to his first game, though he had already shown the Bulldogs he was quite a player.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Human Trails to Begin Using High Purity Stem Cells

In 2002, at his lab at UC-Irvine, Hans Keirstead delicately sliced open the spines of eight lab rats with a scalpel, then not so delicately punched into their spinal-cord tissue with the force of two hundred kilodynes. A week later, he reached for a vial inside which was something most of the scientific world believed was impossible: a stem-cell solution so pure that the risk of any newly derived nerve cells morphing into tumors had been all but eliminated. He drew some liquid from the vial and injected his elixir — set to grow into oligodendrocytes, which help ferry movement-generating electric impulses into muscles — into the spines of the recently paralyzed rats. Then an assistant grabbed a camera. The resulting video was short, but its meaning was unmistakable: The rats stood up and wobbly walked. The clip went viral and the public cheered. But many of Keirstead's colleagues were less sanguine. Was the science right? they wondered. He hadn't even published a paper on it yet. As early as this spring, we'll begin to find out.

Pending one final review, next year a handful of paralyzed men and women are set to get Keirstead's high-purity stem cells injected directly into their spinal cords, above and below the injury site. Conducted by the Geron Corporation — to whom Keirstead turned over his research — it will be the first-ever test of purified stem cells in humans. Again, the public is mesmerized by what could happen, and again, Keirstead's colleagues are nervous. If the phase-one trial exacerbates a subject's condition or, far worse, kills one, Keirstead's test won't just fail, it could retard progress on stem cells for decades. He is in effect taking the first major step on stem cells for everyone. And he's doing it with a novel therapy that has a shorter paper trail than most.

Aware of the stakes, the FDA temporarily put the brakes on the trial in August, weeks before it was originally set to begin, so it could rereview the data. But Keirstead is unfazed. He has confidence in his work. The trial application Geron submitted was the longest ever — twenty-two thousand pages — all pointing toward the success and efficacy of Keirstead's method. He feels certain the trial will go forward. "My guess is that the FDA got new supporting data that is very interesting and they just need time to vet it."

Monday, November 16, 2009

$25 Million For Bad Back Flip

This isn't the life 32-year-old Shane Downey pictured for himself 9 ½ years ago.

Back then he was an athlete and he loved gymnastics.But one bad landing after a double backflip on a piece of gymnastics equipment stopped all competition for Downey and left him paralyzed."There was no pain but everything was gone," Downey said. "I live a life but it's completely different now."Downey said it happened while he was helping out a coach at a local gymnastics center.He was asked to try out the Tumbl Trak, which is like a long, narrow trampoline.During his move something went wrong. Downey crushed his spinal cord.
His brother saw it all unfold."He said I needed to get up, I was scaring people," Downey said. "And while we where having that short conversation I realized that I was not OK and that I couldn't move."A jury found JC Sports, Inc. 100 percent negligent for Downey's injuries. Downey's lawyer said the staff wasn't spotting him, and he said they knew they couldn't, so they should have told Downey to stop.Now, they'll have to pay $25.5 million for the mistake."The sad part is they did nothing, and that's what the distinction is," Downey's attorney

Mitch Woodleif said. "They did not do any supervision whatsoever. They didn't say, 'Stop.' They didn't say, 'Don't do that kind of pass.' They didn't say anything."Downey said the money from the lawsuit won't give him his life back.In fact, most of it will just go to pay his mounting medical bills and the ones that are still to come.

Downey's attorney said the family has faced $3 million in medical bills already."Pretty much the only thing I can do on my own is eat and move around in my chair," Downey said. "I mean, I have to have someone around to help me get dressed and to change clothes and to help me go to the bathroom and take a shower and go from one place to the next. And I mean, you lose a lot of dignity whenever you can't do things for yourself."


Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Arms, No Legs, But Gets Guns

A N.J. man who cannot move his arms still has the right to bear arms, a New Jersey superior court judge said Tuesday.

For the past two years Manville’s police chief has denied James Cap, 46, his second ammendment rights by not allowing him to have a firearms ID card—a requirement to purchase a gun in the state of New Jersey.
Cap was an avid hunter as a teenager, before he broke his neck and became paralyzed in a high school football game 30 years ago. For the past two-and-a-half years, he’s wanted to buy a gun and hunt again, even though he is confined to an electronic wheel chair.

Cap sued for the right to buy a shotgun, so that he can mount it on his wheelchair. He will shoot it with a special breathing tube.

Superior Court Judge John Pursel said there is “no reason” Cap should be denied a firearms ID card, reports the Star-Ledger.

“I hope you enjoy the use of your firearm,” Pursel said before signing an order allows him a permit as long as his guns are stored in a safe and qualified people assist him with the weapons.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A New Member of the SCI Family?

The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of his bullet wounds and may remain that way, his lawyer said Friday.

The suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, remains in the intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with four bullet wounds, said the lawyer, John P. Galligan. He is coherent but easily fatigued and cannot sit up or feel anything in his legs, Mr. Galligan said.

Military officials charged Major Hasan, 39, with 13 counts of premeditated murder on Wednesday, setting in motion a court-martial proceeding that could lead to the death penalty.

The psychiatrist was brought down in a gunfight with two police officers after the Nov. 5 rampage on unarmed soldiers and civilians in a center on the post where military personnel receive medical attention before being deployed or after returning from missions.

Dewey Mitchell, a spokesman for the hospital, said he could not confirm whether Major Hasan was paralyzed because he has requested that no information be released about his condition.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Afghanistan War: One in Six Wounded Have Spinal Cord Injuries

Far from winding down, the numbers of U.S. soldiers coming home wounded have continued to swell. The problem is especially acute among those fighting in Afghanistan, where nearly four times as many troops were injured in October as a year ago.

Amputations, burns, brain injuries and shrapnel wounds proliferate in Afghanistan, due mostly to increasingly potent improvised bombs targeting U.S. forces. Snipers' bullets and mortar rounds also are to blame.

Of particular concern are the so-called hidden wounds, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder that can have long-term side effects such as depression.

Since 2007, more than 70,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury — more than 20,000 of them this year, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most of the injuries are mild but leave symptoms such as headaches and difficulty concentrating.

 In Afghanistan, spinal injuries have increased significantly, due mostly to the powerful explosives used in the improvised bombs that rattle U.S. troops inside heavily armored vehicles. For those injured by these bombs, recovery can mean a year or more at a military hospital like Walter Reed Army Medical Center, followed by months, years or even a lifetime of therapy and coping with disability.

At least 1,800 troops were wounded in Afghanistan in the first 10 months of this year, about 40 percent of all the wounded U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Nearly 1,000 of those injuries occurred in the last three months.

In Iraq, more than 600 troops have been wounded so far this year.

By far, improvised explosive devices are the biggest killer of U.S. troops in both countries.

In Afghanistan in the last four months, the volume of explosives used to make IEDs and the total number of IEDs have increased, Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail.

Spinal injuries account for one in six of the wounds treated in the Afghanistan battle theater, Shanks said. Of those injuries, about 15 percent involved motor or sensory changes such as a broken back or spinal cord injury, Shanks said.


Monday, November 9, 2009

FDA Approves First Stem Cell Treatment

The first human embryonic stem cell treatment approved by the FDA for human testing has been shown to restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries -- a finding that could expand the clinical trial to include people with cervical damage.

In January, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., permission to test the UC Irvine treatment in individuals with thoracic spinal cord injuries, which occur below the neck.
However, trying it in those with cervical damage wasn't approved because preclinical testing with rats hadn't been completed.

Results of the cervical study currently appear online in the journal Stem Cells. UCI scientist Hans Keirstead hopes the data will prompt the FDA to authorize clinical testing of the treatment in people with both types of spinal cord damage. About 52 percent of spinal cord injuries are cervical and 48 percent thoracic.

"People with cervical damage often have lost or impaired limb movement and bowel, bladder or sexual function, and currently there's no effective treatment. It's a challenging existence," said Keirstead, a primary author of the study. "What our therapy did to injured rodents is phenomenal. If we see even a fraction of that benefit in humans, it will be nothing short of a home run."

A week after test rats with 100 percent walking ability suffered neck spinal cord injuries, some received the stem cell treatment. The walking ability of those that didn't degraded to 38 percent. Treated rats' ability, however, was restored to 97 percent.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nanobots Repair Spinal Cords

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a new approach for repairing damaged nerve fibers in spinal cord injuries using nano-spheres that could be injected into the blood shortly after an accident.

The synthetic "copolymer micelles" are drug-delivery spheres about 60 nanometers in diameter, or roughly 100 times smaller than the diameter of a red blood cell.

Researchers have been studying how to deliver drugs for cancer treatment and other therapies using these spheres. Medications might be harbored in the cores and ferried to diseased or damaged tissue.

Purdue researchers have now shown that the micelles themselves repair damaged axons, fibers that transmit electrical impulses in the spinal cord.

"That was a very surprising discovery," said Ji-Xin Cheng, an associate professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry. "Micelles have been used for 30 years as drug-delivery vehicles in research, but no one has ever used them directly as a medicine."

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing Sunday (Nov. 8) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
A critical feature of micelles is that they combine two types of polymers, one being hydrophobic and the other hydrophilic, meaning they are either unable or able to mix with water. The hydrophobic core can be loaded with drugs to treat disease.

The micelles might be used instead of more conventional "membrane sealing agents," including polyethylene glycol, which makes up the outer shell of the micelles. Because of the nanoscale size and the polyethylene glycol shell of the micelles, they are not quickly filtered by the kidney or captured by the liver, enabling them to remain in the bloodstream long enough to circulate to damaged tissues.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quad Dumped from Chair, Handcuffed, Arrested

While a quadriplegic was being arrested for blocking a police car with his wheelchair so his teenage daughter wouldn't be removed from their home after a domestic dispute, she sobbed hysterically inside the cruiser and repeatedly begged two officers to let her father go.

"Please don't take my dad to jail!" the 16-year-old girl can be heard crying on the audio of a police car video of the incident obtained Friday by The Enquirer. "Please don't hurt him! ... Daddy! Daddy! Please let him go! Please, oh please! Please don't hurt him!"

James K. Kestler, 39, who is paralyzed from the chest down and has minimal use of his arms, said he remains incredulous that he was pulled from his wheelchair during a rain storm, painfully handcuffed and taken to the Clermont County Jail after getting into a dispute with his daughter.

"I can't believe it happened," Kestler said. "There's no sense in it."

Police arrested Kestler on July 30 after he got into an argument with his daughter over an eyebrow piercing that he had told her not to get.

Kestler's ex-wife, Carrie, who was in Vermont, phoned police after her daughter called and said he was going to kill her, according to a police report.

"She was upset because I was taking her cell phone and grounding her," Kestler said of his daughter.

 "He couldn't possibly kill her," said Tim Smith, Kestler's defense attorney. "He's paralyzed from the chest down (as the result of a 2005 fall). "She admits to police he never said he was going to kill her."

Kestler, who used to deliver milk to stores for a dairy, said he can't grasp anything with his hands, but he can operate a motorized wheelchair with the palm of his right hand. He blocked a police cruiser with his wheelchair after Officers Skip Rasfeld and John Chirgwin said they would take the girl to a grandmother's home to cool off.

"Mr. Kestler said he'd rather be arrested," Rasfeld wrote in a police report. "I did not want to arrest him, (but) Mr. Kestler was beyond all reasoning."


Dusty Ride

Dusty Franz will spend the next two weeks speeding down the shoulders and sidewalks of central Florida's roadways at five miles an hour.

The Ruskin resident is not traveling by car, but rather a motorized wheelchair. His journey started Friday morning from the Sebring Moose Lodge and will take him 200 miles through Highlands County, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Brandon and finally back home.

Covering between 12 and 15 miles every day at 5 mph, Franz estimated he'd be back in Ruskin on Nov. 21.

He set out on this journey as a fundraiser for the Moose Legion's charities, which benefits children who are without parents or come from broken homes and senior citizens who are in need of assistance.
The title is simple enough: Dusty's Ride.

"My wife thought I was crazy for doing this, because of my physical shape that I'm in," Franz said. "It was just something that I thought I had to do at this point."

Four years ago, Franz's life was forever changed when he was seriously hurt in a car accident. The U.S. Air Force veteran underwent 12 surgeries, with the most recent on Aug. 20, and has two more to go.
Franz suffered a spinal cord injury and lost all movement from the waist down.

"Certain things inside are shut down," he said. "My stomach's shut down, and there's one surgeon in the state that's working with this pacemaker, like they do for your heart, and they put it on my stomach and they're trying this out to make sure that I can get food down."
Franz was on a feeding tube until a month ago and underwent a dramatic weight loss, dropping from 206 to 123 pounds.

Since starting to eat solid foods again, things have improved.

"Right now, I'm doing good," Franz said. "I'm up to 136. Gaining weight slowly."

A portion of the money raised will go toward helping other veterans.

Slow ride ... take it easy


Friday, November 6, 2009

Blood Clots

Early thromboprophylaxis should be used to prevent deep-vein thrombosis in patients who have suffered an acute spinal cord injury, according to a meta-analysis in the November issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Avraam Ploumis, M.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues reviewed the medical literature for clinical trials on thromboprophylaxis following acute spinal injuries, with and without spinal cord injury. The reviewers screened 489 studies, of which 21 met the criteria for their meta-analysis. Outcomes assessed included deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and adverse events.
The researchers found that the cases of deep-vein thrombosis were significantly lower among patients who did not have spinal cord injury than among patients who did (odds ratio, 6.0). Among the patients who had spinal cord injury, those taking oral anticoagulants had significantly fewer pulmonary embolisms than those not taking anticoagulants. Also, there were significantly fewer deep-vein-thrombosis incidents among patients beginning thromboprophylaxis within two weeks of the injury compared to those in whom it was delayed. In addition, heparin-based pharmacoprophylaxis using low-molecular-weight heparin was found superior to unfractionated heparin.

"The prevalence of deep-vein thrombosis following a spine injury is higher among patients who have a spinal cord injury than among those who do not have a spinal cord injury. Therefore, thromboprophylaxis in these patients should start as early as possible once it is deemed safe in terms of potential bleeding complications," the authors write.

Authors of the study reported financial relationships with Medtronic and DePuy Spine


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quad Beauty Tycoon

Clark's Botanicals is not your typical beauty company, and founder Francesco Clark will be the first one to tell you that. From how the formulas are developed to methods of building brand awareness, this business does things its own way.

And Francesco Clark is not your typical business owner. In 2002, he suffered a severe spinal-cord injury from a pool diving accident that left him without the ability to feel or move 98% of his body. As a result, Mr. Clark's skin became unresponsive to temperature. He stopped sweating, and the condition of his skin deteriorated. After trying dozens of skincare products, both over-the-counter and prescription, Mr. Clark took matters into his own hands. He enlisted the help of his father, a doctor and homeopathy expert, and together they developed a unique botanically-based moisturizing cream. After sharing the product with friends and family and receiving great feedback, the ball got rolling that would develop into Clark's Botanicals. Mr. Clark's injury never hindered him in building his company. "I think the biggest challenge for me was not the physical challenge, but it was showing people that I could do just as much as they could," he says.

Today, Clark's Botanicals has made a name for itself and has received attention from many fashion and beauty editors – without spending a dime on promotions. "We're a small company, so we don't have any advertising budget or marketing budget," says Mr. Clark. Instead, he's utilized contacts in the industry (Mr. Clark previously worked at Harpers Bazaar) and has even reached out to Michelle Obama for support – and she is now a Clark's customer. He credits much of the company's growth to word-of-mouth and the positive reputation of its products, which are made with essential oils such as Jasmine Absolute rather than the usual chemicals used in beauty products.

Mr. Clark also has a focus on helping others with spinal-cord injuries. A percentage of the profits from Clark's Botanicals is donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is devoted to curing spinal-cord injuries and improving the quality of life for people with paralysis. Mr. Clark spends a lot of time volunteering with the foundation, working on fundraisers and events. Mr. Reeve is a personal hero of his. "It's not just another beauty company, it's really my passion and my mission," says Mr. Clark.


Prevent Spinal Cord Damage Using a Vitamin B3 Precursor

Substances naturally produced by the human body may one day help prevent paralysis following a spinal cord injury, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College. A recent $2.5 million grant from the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Board will fund their research investigating this possibility.

The Weill Cornell team believes that permanent nerve damage may be avoided by raising levels of a compound that converts to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) -- the active form of vitamin B3. The compound would potentially be administered immediately following spinal cord injury.

"Boosting NAD+ after injury may prevent permanent nerve death," explains Dr. Samie Jaffrey, associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Our study is aimed at synthesizing a molecule that, when given soon after injury, may augment the body's production of NAD+ and rescue these cells before they are stressed beyond recovery."

The compound, called nicotinamide riboside (NR) -- a natural NAD+ precursor found in foods like milk -- as well as other NR derivatives have already been proven to protect against cell death and axonal degeneration in cultured cells and in models of spinal cord injury. In 2007, the authors reported results of laboratory experiments finding that NR can increase NAD+ concentrations as high as 270 percent when compared with untreated control cells. No other known agent has been shown to achieve these types of increases in cells.

NAD+ is known to play a key role in human cells by activating proteins called sirtuins that help the cells survive under stress. Sirtuins, which can be activated by compounds like resveratrol (found in large concentrations in the skin of grapes used to make red wine) have been shown to possess anti-aging and healing properties. The researchers believe that quickly increasing the NAD+ levels may help to activate the sirtuin levels in the cells and prevent cell death. This is especially important because when cells and tissues experience extreme trauma, NAD+ levels drop quickly.

In the newly funded research, the Weill Cornell team will conduct a lab study to see how NR compounds can raise NAD+ levels in cells that are stressed to the point that they will die within three to four hours, and instead survive as a consequence of treatment. In a separate study, Dr. Brett Langley from the Burke Rehabilitation Center in Westchester, N.Y. -- a hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College -- will test the compounds in mice with spinal injuries, with the hope of observing physical recovery and improvement in behavioral testing.

"We hope to show that a natural compound that can be produced cheaply and efficiently could be the key to preventing permanent injury," explains Dr. Anthony Sauve, associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "We also believe that the compound would be perfectly safe to use in humans, since it is a vitamin that has not been shown to have negative effects on the body when artificially elevated."


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally Some Good News for Shed Man

Help is on the way for a paralyzed Hidalgo County man who has been living in a storage shed. Woodrow Reed lost his mobile home to foreclosure. A family saw his story and offered to help.

Estela Garza is donating a home. She says she knows it’s not a mansion, but it something she wants to share.

“This is my dad's house, and I just don't want it to go to waste,” she explains. “I'd rather give it away to somebody who is going to actually make use of it.”

Garza says she was trying to sell it.

“And I was like maybe God doesn't want me to sell it…. Maybe he wants us to give it to somebody that is in need,” she recalls thinking.

A friend told Garza and her husband about Reed, his fight with foreclosure, and his health battle.

That's when they decided to do something.

The house needs some work, including some new fixtures and some fresh paint. But the Garzas know Reed could use the place, and they want to him to have it.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Enzyme Eats Scar Tissue that Blocks Spine Repair

U.S. researchers have engineered an enzyme that can gobble up scar tissue formed after spinal cord injuries in rats, overcoming a key hurdle to getting injured nerves to reconnect and heal.

Spinal cord injuries trigger a cascade of events in the body that block the growth of nerve cells after a spinal cord injury.
"One of the major impediments has been this scar tissue that has formed," said Ravi Bellamkonda, a biomedical engineering professor at Georgia Institute of Technology Research and at Emory University, whose study appears in Tuesday's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He said sugar proteins found near the scar tissue inhibit nerve fiber regeneration, and eliminating scar tissue is an essential step toward getting nerve fibers to grow back.

Other teams have shown that delivering an enzyme from bacteria that digests scar tissue may help.
"The problem has been this enzyme is really sensitive and degrades very fast," Bellamkonda said in a telephone interview.

He said the enzyme, chondroitinase ABC (chABC), is heat sensitive and must be repeatedly injected or infused into the body to work.

Bellamkonda's team found a way to overcome both of those issues. They mixed the enzyme with a sugar called trehalose that made it stable at internal body temperature.

And instead of injecting the enzyme into the spinal cord, they put it into tiny hollow straws just twice the length of a single cell. They inject these at the injury site in a special gel that keeps the straws in place.
Bellamkonda's team tested the system in rats and found the enzyme prevented scar tissue formation for up to six weeks.


Dog Walks and Happy Again

dachshund.jpgSpinal cord injury patients around the world may draw new hope for the future from the story of a paralyzed little dog who was able to walk again after receiving an experimental spinal cord treatment. Cambridge University scientists pioneered the new treatment that made it possible for Henry the dachshund to walk after he was paralyzed by a severe spinal cord injury.

Veterinarians at the Cambridge Veterinary School took cells from the dog’s nose and injected them into his ailing spinal cord. The New York Daily News reported that nose cells were used because they encourage the growth of new nerve fibers in the spinal cord. Henry had lost the ability to walk at the end of last year when discs between the vertebrae in his spine ruptured. It was also reported that certain species of canines have an increased risk of spinal cord injuries, so they make good candidates for exploration of experimental treatments.

Scientists had previously reported success with the nose cell technique in experiments with rats, which inspire professors Nick Jeffrey and Robin Franklin to attempt the experimental procedure on the dachshund. The scientists hope to eventually use the procedure to treat human patients with severe spinal cord injuries.

In addition to the medical treatment, Henry received physiotherapy and rehabilitation on a treadmill. Only a month after getting the nose cell treatment, Henry was able to walk again. The poor little puppy was reportedly downtrodden and depressed before he received the procedure. Afterward, his owner reported signs of the dog’s returning happiness.

Sarah Beech, the owner of the lucky dachshund, was amazed by the miraculous results of the veterinary treatment. She was quoted in the New York Daily News article saying, “It’s incredible,” Henry’s owner, Sarah Beech, told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t think Henry would ever be able to walk again, but over the last few months, he has been wagging his tail and taking small steps.”

The news of such rapid success in reversing Henry’s paralysis should bring hopeful expectation to the many spinal cord injury patients waiting for such amazing treatments to be made available to humans. With all the recent advances in spinal cord injury treatments, it seems only a matter of time before paralysis is seen as a temporary, instead of irreversible, condition.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Conflict Up North

A disabled federal cabinet minister who supports euthanasia says he will abstain from voting on a contentious right-to-die bill, even though he calls it “a provocative starting point” on the issue of assisted suicide.

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, a quadriplegic, says that despite his belief that terminally ill or physically disabled people should be allowed to choose death in some instances, he will not be voting yes to Bill C-384, a private member’s bill put forth by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde.

“Yes, the bill would provide the terminally ill with more freedom to end their own lives with dignity,” writes Fletcher, 37, in an opinion piece appearing Monday in the National Post.

“But it may also worsen the plight of the severely injured and ill by relieving the pressure on Canadians to come to terms with the more important challenge of providing the level of support required to make living the first choice.”

Fletcher was an athletic 23-year-old engineering graduate when his car collided with a moose on a Manitoba highway, paralyzing him from the neck down and ending his ability to walk, touch, feel and breathe on his own. The accident left him in excruciating pain “that would make you welcome death,” he writes.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Startling Good News

This news could startle a lot of people. Mainly because a new study from University of California, San Diego School of medicine claims that the regeneration of the central nervous system axons could be possible in rats even when treatment is overdue for more than a year following the original spinal cord injury.

Mark TuszynskiUnited Sates apparently accounts for more than 10,000 new spinal cord injuries yearly. Almost all preceding spinal cord injury studies have tried to fuel regeneration when treatment is started more or less right away post injury. Nobody had apparently displayed effective regeneration in the late, chronic stages.

Lead author Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, professor of neurosciences and director of the Center for Neural Repair at UC San Diego, and neurologist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System, commented, “The good news is that when axons have been cut due to spinal cord injury, they can be coaxed to regenerate if a combination of treatments is applied. The chronically injured axon is not dead.”

The UC San Diego team apparently established effective regeneration of adult spinal cord axons, and then injury site in the cervical spinal cord and the middle region of the neck. Treatment was started at different time durations varying from 6 weeks to as long as 15 months subsequent to the original injury in rats.
It was observed that a number of mechanisms generate dreadful obstacles to regeneration of injured axons in chronic spinal cord injury. Some of them are scar formation at the injury site, a partial deficiency in the intrinsic growth capacity of adult neurons, the presence of inhibitors to growth, and, occasionally, extensive inflammation. Chronically injured neurons demonstrate a loss of expression of regeneration-promoting genes, and there seems to be progressive degeneration of spinal cord white substance further than lesion sites, apparently all leading to a bad environment for axonal re-growth.

Even under perfect laboratory circumstances, axonal re-growth is believed to be quite complex, thereby needing an amalgamation of three things i.e. a cellular bridge in the lesion site; a nervous system growth factor to direct axons to the accurate goal; and an incentive to the damaged neuron that turns on regeneration genes. By means of this combinatorial treatment, the study team supposedly attained axonal bridging further than the primary lesion site in rats when treatment was postponed for up to 15 months following the original spinal cord injury. Animals without the full combination treatment apparently did not show signs of axonal regrowth.
The experts also performed genetic studies to gauge how broad sets of genes in cells could be generated when treatment is deferred following injury. They found that, in spite of extensive delays, majority of the genes could still be turned on to maintain regeneration, thus signifying that a chronically injured cell may still be ‘primed’ to grow.

Tuszynski, stated, “Our findings indicate that there is potential for promoting repair of the injured spinal cord even in chronic stages of injury. While the regenerating axons grow for relatively short distances, even this degree of growth could be useful. For example, restoration of nerve function even one level below an injury in the neck might improve movement of a wrist or hand, providing greater quality of life or independence.”
The studies were conducted in sensory systems that communicate a sense of touch from the body to the brain. In ongoing studies, the scientists would be examining these methods for regenerating axons that control movement in chronically injured rats.