Spinal Cord Injury Fact Sheet
CIRM funds a variety of research projects focused on finding a treatment for people with spinal cord injury. These projects range from basic work understanding how nerve cells are damaged in these injuries to projects trying move therapies into clinical trials.
If you want to learn more about CIRM funding decisions or make a comment directly to our board, join us at a public meeting. You can find agendas for upcoming public meetings on our meetings page.
Find clinical trials:
CIRM does not track stem cell clinical trials. If you or a family member is interested in participating in a clinical trial, please see the national trial database to find a trial near you: clinicaltrials.gov
Stem cell research for spinal cord injury
About 250,000 people in the U.S. live with spinal cord injuries. Half of those are quadriplegic, with the paralysis impacting all four limbs to some extent. For those individuals the lifetime cost of managing their condition is estimated to be between $2 million and $3 million.
Spinal cord injury became the first condition targeted in a human clinical trial using cells made from embryonic stem cells. That trial, begun by Geron in 2010 and based on the findings of a team CIRM currently funds, was later cancelled by Geron for financial reasons. By the time of the cancellation five patients around the country had been enrolled in the study, including two at Stanford, who entered the trial during a period when CIRM funded Geron. Those patients continue to be followed to learn as much as possible about this approach.
California’s stem cell agency retains many grants for research to move potential spinal cord injury therapies forward (the full list is below). Much of this work focuses on trying to determine which type of nerve cell is the best one to transplant, and deciding which type of stem cell is the best starting point for making those cells. Other research is trying to see if these transplanted cells become part of the existing nerve system, helping create new pathways that can transmit nerve signals to muscles. The researchers are also looking at ways to try and improve the ability of these transplanted cells to become part of the nerve system.
One obstacle that some teams are trying to overcome is the tendency of the scar at the site of injury to block the growth of these transplanted cells. One group is trying to overcome that by combining stem cells with synthetic scaffolds that can be placed at the site of injury, to help the cells bridge the scar and restore signals. In animal models this combination has resulted in an increase in mobility compared to stem cell grafts alone.
Progress and Promise toward a stem cell-based therapy for spinal cord injury
CIRM Grants Targeting Spinal Cord Injury
CIRM Spinal Cord Injury Videos
News and Information
- NIH: Spinal Cord Injury Information
- Find a clinical trial near you: NIH Clinical Trials database
- Spinal Cord Injury Association
- American Spinal Injury Association
- The Spinal Cord Society
- Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
- The Roman Reed Foundation
- Reeve-Irvine Research Center
- Stem Cell Network spinal cord injury page
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- National Family Caregivers Association