Feasibility and safety of neural tissue transplantation in patients with syringomyelia.
Transplantation of fetal spinal cord (FSC) tissue has demonstrated significant potential in animal models for achieving partial anatomical and functional restoration following spinal cord injury (SCI). To determine whether this strategy can eventually be translated to humans with SCI, a pilot safety and feasibility study was initiated in patients with progressive posttraumatic syringomyelia (PPTS). A total of eight patients with PPTS have been enrolled to date, and this report presents findings for the first two patients through 18 months postoperative. The study design included detailed assessments of each subject at multiple pre- and postoperative time points. Outcome data were then compared with each subject's own baseline. The surgical protocol included detethering, cyst drainage, and implantation of 6-9-week postconception human FSC tissue. Immunosuppression with cyclosporine was initiated a few days prior to surgery and continued for 6 months postoperatively. Key outcome measures included: serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, standardized measures of neurological impairment and functional disability, detailed pain assessment, and extensive neurophysiological testing. Through 18 months, the first two patients have been stable neurologically and the MRIs have shown evidence of solid tissue at the graft sites, without evidence of donor tissue overgrowth. Although it is still too soon to draw any firm conclusions, the findings from the initial two patients in this study suggest that intraspinal grafting of human FSC tissue is both feasible and safe.