A man in India is reportedly walking again after becoming paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury, in which doctors used his own bone marrow stem cells as the therapeutic agent. It is tempting raise the roof yelling about this story–but I think caution should be the watchword of the day. First, this is anecdotal. Second, with all due respect to India, it has occurred in an area of the world where stem cell quackery has been known to occur. Third, it may be unethical human research. I don’t know of any bone marrow stem cell studies advanced enough in animals with spinal cord injury to proceed to human trials. Fourth, the man’s spinal cord was bruised and not severed, meaning it is possible the healing was not caused by his stem cells. Fifth, we have had reports such as this before, only to have the effect short-lived–and worse.
In short, for those of us who believe that adult stem cells offer an extremely promising avenue for regenerative medicine, let’s not be guilty of the hyping the pro ESCR/human cloning crowd is so often guilty of and approach this report with appropriate caution and skepticism.