Saturday, 15 December 2012

Stem cell spinal cord transplant under investigation

The medical authorities of Cape Town are currently investigating the practises of a doctor who claims to have performed the first stem cell transplant surgery in South Africa. Receiver of the transplant is a 32 year old quadriplegic man, named Tommie Prins, who was paralysed after broking his neck.

Prins claims that after receiving the stem cell transplant,  his life drastically changed to the better. He had two surgeries, one in October 10, 2011 and one in October 24 of the same year. The operations were both carried out by neurosurgeon Adriaan Liebenberg. Prins says that his health gets better each passing day:

“I have gone from a ‘complete injury’ to an ‘incomplete injury’, meaning I have some movement now, and am very optimistic.  Every day there are new muscle groups which wake up. We can see flexes in muscles which wouldn’t move before. I can move my right wrist already, and my left wrist is slowly coming along. My bicep muscle can contract voluntarily. It inspires me, motivates me to exercise harder every day,”

Neurosurgeon Adriaan Liebenberg and his team say that they had full written permission before carrying out the operation to Prins. However the Society of Neuro-Surgeons of SA (SNSA), doesn't seem to be pleased by their practises. SNSA's president, Sameer Nadvi , has issued a formal letter of concern. He writes:

 “Although you are not a member of SNSA, we… voice our concerns regarding recent media reports that you have been performing Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) in patients with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)." 

“As you are no doubt aware, in the current neurosurgical literature, there is no… proof that any form of Cellular Therapy definitely improves outcomes of human Spinal Cord Injury.”

The letter continues with the president asking Liebenberg to stop performing his stem cell operations to people with spinal cord injuries. This is because ,as he says, SCI patients are desperate for miracle treatments, the operations have a high cost and as mentioned before, there is no proof in the medical literature that stem cells can  provide any relief to such injuries. He also said that ethical but mainly legal issues might arise from his stem cell therapies. Finally, he warned Liebenberg to follow the “General Ethical Guidelines for Biotechnology Research”, which are “fairly rigorous”.

Officials of the Health Professions Council of SA have confirmed that a standard investigation is under way. 

Stem Cells Freak is closely following for new developments in the case and will inform you if any news arise.

The spinal cord contains many important nerves and an injury may cause severe paralysis.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) refers to any injury to the spinal cord that is caused by trauma, usually the result of an accident. Depending on the location and extend of the damage, the symptoms can vary from episodes of pain to severe paralysis.

Video about spinal cord injuries

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