Japanese researchers are to begin conducting a series of clinical tests to try to regenerate the spinal cord of people who have suffered from injuries.
The research team led by Masaya Nakamura, a professor in the Keio University in Tokyo, will try to repair lesions in the spinal cord specifically in the neck, public broadcaster NHK reported Tuesday.
The patients will be administered the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) five times within 78 hours of having received the injury.
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HGF is a type of protein that helps in the regeneration of the nerve tissue.
The team explained that they carried out tests on monkeys who received the identical treatment and that they recovered the ability to grasp objects eight weeks after the protein was injected.
The researchers will review the patients six months after the administration of the protein to determine if there is an improvement in the movement of their limbs.
The tests were expected to be conducted on 48 patients in the next two years.
Professor Nakamura indicated that if the tests were successful, persons doomed to be bedridden for life could start walking independently.
In Japan alone some 5,000 people suffer from spinal cord injuries every year, most of them received in traffic accidents.
However, till now, there is no remedy to repair these injuries, which would make these tests, if successful, a landmark in regenerative medicine.