There are about a quarter of a million people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries. In addition, between 7,600 and 10,000 new injuries occur each year. Nearly half of these new injuries will occur in young people between the ages of 16 and 30. I have become very interested in the research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries and hope to share some of the information I found with you today. In order for you to fully understand the details I will be sharing with you, I’d like to begin with a general overview of the spinal cord before moving on to the three stages of research I will cover: past research which has lead to present treatments, recent research, and the present and future research.
The spinal cord is basically a bundle of nerves which runs from the base of the brain to the middle of the waist. It is the core of the spinal column and carries nerve impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. When this soft, jelly-like cord is injured, severe effects are felt on the body. The spinal cord can be bruised, damaged, or severed, each resulting in different degrees of injury. In this illustration we see an example of a slipped disk. A slipped disk most often results in severe and sometimes disabling pain and can be treated by painkillers, bed rest, or surgery. While definitely not a minor ailment, the severity of a slipped disk is not very high since the spinal cord is left intact and therefor there is no nerve damage. However, more serious consequences occur when the spinal cord is damaged or severed. This can happen from traumas or diseases, and since we have a limited time, I will focus only on the traumatic causes. The largest contributor to traumatic spinal cord injuries is vehicular accidents, accounting for nearly 48%. Next is falls at almost 21%, followed by violence, sports, and ‘other’. As you can see from this graph, 66% of sports injuries occur in the form of diving accidents, while I am part of the 3.8% of snow skiing accidents.
Now that I have shared a brief overview of the spinal cord and some statistics about spinal cord injuries, we will look at the past research that h...
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...e sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and spinal cord injuries, and have already been used against certain types of cancer.
The controversy behind the stem cell research has been raging since the first experiments. The United States Congress banned federally supported human-embryo research in 1996, forcing scientists to solicit funding from private sponsors. Since stem cells are harvested from aborted fetuses, the ethical issues surrounding abortion act as a stigma in the public’s view. However, in September of last year, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission concluded that harvesting stem cells from discarded embryos is morally akin to removing organs from dead people for transplant. Stem cell research continues to be very controversial, yet prevalent in the scientific community.
Research in the field of spinal cord injuries has already come very far in only the past decade, and now seems to be on the fast track to finding a cure. Many of the facts and statistics I found while researching this topic were entirely new to me, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to research such an important and relevant subject.
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