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  • Writer's pictureJenna Mellor

Argentina and Stem Cell Research in Action

In October of last year, one of my clients decided to move to Argentina for 6 months to participate in a stem cell therapy treatment trial. She has a T11/T12 spinal cord injury and has complete paralysis from the waist down. Despite all odds, the goal for her is and always will be to walk again. With her dedication and positive outlook, I have no doubt this will be a reality for her.

When she invited me to come down to Argentina this past January to work with her kinesiologists and see the stem cell treatment in action, my obvious response was an unquestionable “of course!!”

Human stem cells.

Since October, she has had three of her four stem cell injections, which were derived from her own mesenchymal stem cells, differentiated, and then transplanted back into the atrophied muscle cells. I was lucky to see the process of the stem cell injection, in which the doctor uses ultrasound to precisely inject the stem cells into the target muscle cells. This treatment is coupled with 20 hours per week of kinesiological rehabilitation, focusing predominately on gait training, muscle strengthening and postural control, both above and below the level of injury. There is no fancy equipment or robotic technology like what you might see in other countries, just basic and effective rehab carried out by highly knowledgeable therapists.

Laboratory research.

As of now, my client is able to walk using a walker and ankle-foot orthoses (braces that hold the ankle in place), with little support from a therapist to ensure her knees effectively lock out with each step. I’m sure that soon she will be able to walk using a walker without the supervision of a therapist. As you recall, she is paralyzed from the waist down, so her ability to walk comes from precise weight shifting of the trunk and activation of the hip flexors. For her to reach this point, we have had to focus a generous amount of time on proper posture in terms of head, neck, shoulder, and pelvic position. As these areas have began to work synergistically, it has allowed her to feel more aware of her body in space, stack her joints accordingly, and successfully activate more muscles.

As I’ve worked with her for the past couple of years and watched her progress in Argentina, there a few things that have stood out to me.

  1. Often times, dedication and hard work can help get you further than what some medical professionals have told you would be possible.

  2. If you are willing to put your health first, other areas of your life will fall into place around the strong foundation you have built.

  3. The core really is the basis of all other movement.

All in all, this was such a unique experience and I feel so grateful that I had the privilege of seeing this ground-breaking research in action. This is not something that is offered in Canada, yet it was fantastic to see how much my client and the other individuals in the clinic have progressed as a result. Giving individuals with paralysis the hope and vision to be more independent and functional is so important and I feel as though spinal cord injury research will sky rocket from here.

by Jenna Mellor, Kinesiologist, B. Sc. Kin.


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