Japan Approves Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury

Results, from a study at Sapporo Medical University in Japan, showed bone marrow derived stem cell therapy to be safe and effective for the treatment of spinal cord injury. Japan approves the first commercially produced stem cell product, Stemilac injection, for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Stemilac was developed jointly by Nipro and Sapporo Medical University and is the world’s first approved marketed product for stem cell therapy, available only at the Sapporo Medical University in Sapporo, Japan.

“This is an unprecedented revolution of science and medicine, which will open a new era of healthcare,” says oncologist Masanori Fukushima, head of the Translational Research Informatics Center, a Japanese government organization in Kobe that has been giving advice and support to the project for more than a decade.

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Trial Design

In an open-label trial, researchers in Japan evaluated autologous bone marrow derived stem cells in 13 patients who had experienced severe spinal cord injury 1 month prior to treatment. Physicians collected and expanded mesenchymal stem cells taken from the patient’s own bone marrow. The cells were grown approximately 10,000-fold, increasing the number of available cells to 50 to 200 million. The cells were then diluted more than 3-fold with saline and given back to the patient by intravenous infusion within 40 days post injury.


Twelve of the 13 patients showed visible improvement such as increase physical sensation, and increased movement of the hands and feet. No serious adverse events were reported. Six months after treatment, 12 of the 13 patients improved by at least one level on the American Spinal Injury Association impairment scale, an internationally recognized system that ranks people’s ability to contract muscles and sense touch on parts of the body.

Researchers involved in the trial believe the stem cells might repair damage to the spinal cord through several mechanisms, including reducing inflammation, protecting existing neurons and replacing damaged neurons.

Stem Cell Therapy at The Stem Cells Transplant Institute

The Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica, recommends the use of umbilical cord stem cells for the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

Treatment at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute can help promote healing to help improve some functions including:

  • Improve bladder function
  • Improve bowel function
  • Decrease neuropathic pain
  • Decrease spasticity
  • Improve motor function
  • Increase ability to sweat
  • Increase sensation
  • Improve muscle mass and strength
  • Improve balance and coordination

How can stem cell therapy improve lost functions due to a spinal cord injury?

The goal of stem cell therapy is to replace lost and damaged neurons. Through the paracrine effect, stem cell therapy also:

  • Modulates and improves immune system response
  • Eliminates cellular debris
  • Limits secondary damage by protecting neurons and reducing inflammation
  • Improves angiogenesis
  • Promotes healing by promoting cell regeneration of endogenous stem cells
  • If given soon after injury, stem cell therapy can limit initial degeneration

What are the advantages of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells?

  • Abundant supply containing up to 10 times more stem cells than bone marrow or adipose derived stem cells
  • hUC-MSC have immunosuppressors and immunomodulatory properties that allow their use in any individual without rejection- Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching is not necessary
  • Greater proliferation ability than adult autologous stem cells
  • They regenerate at a very rapid rate
  • They have not been impacted by the aging process
  • They have not been affected by environmental toxins
  • Umbilical cord stem cells can be administered multiple times over the course of days
  • Eliminates the need to collect stem cells from the patient’s fat or hip bone reducing pain and recovery time

Contact us today at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute to learn more about the benefits of stem cell therapy.