I have a new man in my life. To be honest I haven’t met him, but I am following every move he makes. His name is Dr. Wise Young and he is a neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. You may have read about his recent discoveries regarding blood cells and spinal cord injury. Dr. Young and his team of scientists are doing research in China and in New Jersey that will one day cure those who are suffering from the pain and paralysis of spinal cord injuries. He will help those who cannot walk…walk again. What a gift he has been given!
I learned about Dr. Young from another neuroscientist I met on-line through my blog. Dr. T., who has become a good friend. Dr. T., has taught me so much, and just last week mentioned Dr. Young’s name to me prior to the press release being distributed announcing this wonderful news of a possible cure. I believe he wrote…Dr. Young is the scientist to follow. Wise words from a young, up and coming researcher who is also studying spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions. But at the same time, Dr. T. is going through a medical problem of his own and my heart is breaking. While I must keep people and their personal situations private, I feel as if I am living this disappointment with him. And, when I am upset, disappointed, frustrated and trying to come to terms with the world…I write. However, while Dr. T. is feeling life is unfair…I am feeling guilty since I have been given a bit of hope, but this hope comes with a rather large price tag.
That price tag is $14 million to begin clinical trials in the United States. That money must come from private donations. Since there are misconceptions about stem cell research and umbilical cord use, Dr. Young needs to raise money from private citizens. He began a campaign titled Just a Dollar, asking for each person to donate a dollar a day so those with spinal cord injuries can be cured. One dollar a day so those in wheelchairs may walk again. There are no advocates…no one talking to Congress. Sadly Superman died having never walked again.
There is a relatively small community fighting for legislature or funding for spinal cord injury. However, unlike the many types of cancers or other high-profile diseases, spinal cord injury goes basically unnoticed. There is no Lance Armstrong or Michael J. Fox rallying Congress. Since the death of Christopher and Dana Reeve, the foundation they created has maintained their steadfast growth and continued their commitment; but little has been done to change the mindset or the laws pertaining to stem cell research in the U.S. Many blame George W. Bush, others blame a misunderstanding; I blame a lack of education and people not taking the time to understand what they need to know to make the correct decision. I blame a complex topic and lack of time to want to know what they are scared of. Until it happens to them or a loved one.
One thing each of us can do is to review a video prepared by Dr. Young discussing the use of blood cells in research in spinal cord injury cure. In seven minutes Dr. Young explains how blood cells and bone marrow are being used to cure spinal cord injury as well as cancer, sickle-cell anemia, Parkinson’s disease and many other medical conditions. I hope you will take the time to view it. Dr. Young explains how only healthy, blood cells from full term pregnancies can be used. It has nothing to do with abortions and unborn babies. Unfortunately, people equate research with abortions, but no babies will be harmed by Dr. Young’s research.
For those who would rather read about Dr. Young’s breakthrough, below are the details:
Dr. Young and his team run the China Spinal Cord Injury Net, the world’s largest clinical trial network for spinal cord therapies. Established in Hong Kong in 2005, it will be expanding into Europe, India and the United States. Dr. Young explains that umbilical cord blood-cells are transplanted into the spinal cord and combined with lithium treatments are injected into patients’ damaged spines to help regenerate nerves. The lithium is used to promote the growth of the nerve fibers.
Dr. Young recently discovered that each component of the combination therapy needed to be tested separately before they are brought together in the third and final phase, due to take place within the next few years. He reports that the results so far have been promising, although it’s “still too early” to draw conclusions about recovery of movement.
“What we can comfortably say right now is that the procedure seems to be quite safe. Nobody has lost any function,” he added. “We don’t expect people to be jumping out of bed and running marathons after this. Regeneration is a slow process.”
In two sessions of three hours each, six days a week, the patients “sculpt” their nerve fibers into shape, Dr. Young recently reported. He likened it to running a marathon every day. By comparison, Christopher Reeve did about two hours of exercise daily.
Dr. Young does not use the word “cure” lightly.“Before I met Christopher Reeve I was very reluctant to use the word cure…it’s very scary to use because when you use the word cure you’re committing yourself to a goal most scientists feel uncomfortable with,” explains Dr. Young. “We’re not going to be able to make the body exactly the same as it was before the injury. What we should do is get patients to a point where you can’t tell that they have been injured, and I think that is an achievable goal.”
Every 41 minutes another person sustains a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury doesn’t mean patients are in a wheelchair. Many people have spinal cord trauma as a result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from damage to surrounding bones, tissues, blood vessels or tumors. And, many spinal cord problems can’t be seen, patients experience mainly pain. Complications from spinal cord injury is the leading cause of death. Christopher Reeve went into cardiac arrest after taking an antibiotic for a pressure wound. My spinal cord injury was from a blow to the spinal cord by a negligent doctor (and I use the word loosely). What else needs to happen to make society step up and help those who are hurting and can’t help themselves?
And, to my new friend, Dr. T., it seems we are all faced with medical situations, complications and difficulties. Even scientists with their education and all the medical resources at their disposal can’t fix everything. Keep the faith dear friend and as you tell me…keep fighting the good fight.
In addition to Dr. Young’s explanation video, this is a hilarious promo for http://www.justadollar please.org, a campaign to raise money for spinal cord injury. It features a cameo by Dr. Young and a rapper by the name of ProfessirX (Richard Gaskin). Enjoy!