Caravan Firm in Court After Worker Fall

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Caravan Firm in Court After Worker FallCaravan Firm in Court After Worker FallA caravan manufacturer has been fined after a worker was seriously injured in a fall from height.An unnamed 30-year-old from Chingford in Essex, who wishes to remain anonymous, fell from a makeshift platform while he was attaching metalwork cladding to the side of a caravan at the Roma Caravans site in Silsoe, Bedfordshire.ProsecutionThe accident led to the firm’s prosecution, after Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors concluded that Roma Caravans did not have a safe system of work and left its staff members at serious risk of harm when they carried out day-to-day jobs.Although a number of safeguard failings were identified by the HSE investigation, the crux of its case against Roma Caravans was the 30-year-old man’s accident, which indicated a lack of oversight when it came to staff safety.Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court heard that the platform the man stood on comprised a wooden plank placed across a metal frame, something that falls well short of expected standards in the manufacturing sector.FallAs the worker attempted to step off the platform to retrieve his tools, the far end of the plank he was stood on swung up and struck him in the groin.This sent him crashing towards the floor, with the makeshift scaffold collapsing around him.After initial observations it was concluded the man had escaped unscathed and suffered only minor bruising, but two days later he collapsed and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.This condition is a set of symptoms stemming from brain damage incurred during a head injury and can appear days, or even months, after the original accident took place.HeadachesThe anonymous worker has, since his original injury, suffered from regular, severe headaches and pains to his hip.For its failure to protect its personnel from harm, Roma Caravans, of Amenbury Lane, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,527 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.Speaking after the prosecution, HSE inspector Andrew McGill said, “This incident was entirely avoidable and illustrates the need for duty holders to ensure work of this nature is carefully planned and managed at all times.”By not providing suitable equipment, Roma Caravans put the safety of a worker at risk. Appropriate and stable work platforms should always be used for any work undertaken at height.”Falls from heightFalls from height remain common in the private sector and the HSE has outlined that it wishes to see an improvement in the coming months, otherwise further crackdowns could be ordered against businesses that put their workers at risk.Earlier this month it was revealed that a London-based scaffolding company was fined by the authority after a self-employed decorator suffered a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder by falling off a temporary structure.Beacon Scaffolding, of Gloucester Avenue, was fined £5,000 and told to pay £1,737 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to Fine

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineArm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineCEP Ceilings has been hit with a hefty fine following an accident in which an employee’s arm was injured after getting caught in a machine.The worker was operating a amchine at its premises in Stafford last year when his forearm got trapped in its intermeshing metal gears. He subsequently had to undergo skin grafts in order for the wounds to heal.Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the accident came about partly because CEP Ceilings failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment on the site.The HSE also discovered that the company had not implemented a safe system of work, while employees were not monitored sufficiently when they were using machinery.£24,000 FineCEP Ceilings later pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at Stafford Magistrates’ Court. The company was ordered to pay a £24,000 fine plus £1,194 in costs.Unsafe Methods ‘Existed for Many Years’After the sentence was issued in court, the HSE criticised CEP Ceilings for having adopted an unsafe way of working for a long time.Wayne Owen, an inspector at the watchdog, said procedures that had not been fit for purpose had “existed for many years” and this led to the employee suffering a “painful injury”.”CEP Ceilings [failed] to effectively assess the risk to employees from using and clearing the machine and then prescribe a system of work which kept employees safe,” he commented.”Workers were left to determine their own methods of cleaning machinery.”Mr Owen insisted that employers must implement safe working procedures and ensure members of staff are properly instructed and trained on how to comply with these rules in full.This, he said, can help to manage risks during both production and maintenance activities at premises where industrial machinery is in use.”A robust system to monitor employees also needs to be in place to detect any poor practices,” Mr Owen commented.Related Work Accident in StaffordshireThe case follows another work accident in which Andrew Thomas, an employee at Marling Leek in Staffordshire, also suffered an arm injury after it got caught in an unguarded machine.Mr Thomas subsequently had to undergo five operations, but was left with permanent scars, while the strength and feeling in his arm has been reduced as a result of nerve damage and muscle loss.The HSE was particularly critical of Marling Leek as it had been prosecuted over a previous accident in the past, but had failed to address the problems and carry out an adequate risk assessment throughout the business.Lyn Spooner, an inspector at the HSE, insisted that carrying out a risk assessment is a “vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with relevant statutory provisions”.She added that there is extensive guidance on preventing access to dangerous machine parts in the workplace to enable employers to comply with the law.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Family receive £5,500 in compensation over ‘avoidable’ death

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Family receive £5,500 in compensation over ‘avoidable’ deathFamily receive £5,500 in compensation over ‘avoidable’ deathThe family of a 30-year-old man that died following a series of blunders has received £5,500 in compensation.Peter Tyndall, public services ombudsman for Wales, looked into a number of complaints from the family of Carl Nolan, who died in 2010 of liver failure.A report released by Mr Tyndall found Mr Nolan was born with congenital cirrhosis of the liver and this meant he was at threat of developing infections that could, if untreated, be “life-threatening”.However, the IT worker was not told of this medical issue when he was diagnosed with it in 2000 and when a follow-up outpatient appointment was made for him in 2001, he was not notified.When he became ill again in 2008 and was treated at Glan Clwyd hospital, he was given treatment but investigations to determined the cause of his symptoms were not finished and, once again, Mr Nolan remained unaware of his chronic condition.It was not until the man requested a second opinion from another doctor that he was finally told his liver was not functioning properly, before tests two years later determined the organ was failing, but that he was not suitable for a transplant because of the extent to which the disorder had developed.Despite being told his liver was deteriorating quickly, he was sent away before being referred for specialist treatment. This was, however, in vain and Mr Nolan died seven weeks later.A conclusion in Mr Tyndall’s report read: “Had he been treated three days earlier, Mr X [the name used for Mr Nolan in the anonymous report] should have recovered from the infection and had a chance of receiving a liver transplant. This opportunity to survive and flourish was denied him.”In an interview with BBC Wales, the IT worker’s mother, Pat, blasted Glan Clwyd hospital in north Wales for a “catalogue of errors” and the ombudsman recommended she be given £5,500 in compensation.By Chris StevensonOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Pedestrians trip over ‘optical illusion’ pavement

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Pedestrians trip over ‘optical illusion’ pavementPedestrians trip over ‘optical illusion’ pavementAs many as 20 pedestrians have sought medical treatment in Pontypridd, south Wales, after a re-tiled high street tricked walkers’ eyesight.While at certain angles it is obvious there is a kerb in the road, some people in the town have complained the drop from pavement to road is essentially invisible from some perspectives.This has caused a number of falls and Morfydd Jenkins, a local resident, aged 75, was among victims of the poorly planned regeneration project and has suffered extensive facial injuries resulting from her town centre tumble.A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, which maintains the street and manages construction in the town, told Metro newspaper: “Throughout the town, improvements have been made removing clutter from the street, introducing more accessible floor surfaces and introducing flat surfaces where possible which greatly assists those with mobility issues.”It is unclear if the tiling, which is part of a £10.5 million improvement project, will be removed or reworked.By Francesca WitneyOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Workers’ Compensation: Injury During Employment

When an employee is injured during the course and scope of his employment, the manner by which he is compensated changes considerably. Up until now, we have discussed how an attorney represents his client by demanding compensation from the person who is at fault for the injuries. The attorney uses methods that include litigation, arbitration, or maybe just an intimidating demand letter. However, the methods change in situations where his client is an injured employee.Individual states and the federal government have specifically created laws that compensate persons who are injured while at work, and the laws do not focus much on blaming anyone for the injury. Instead, an employer must pay the compensation to his injured employee merely because the employee was injured while on the job. This is a bit of an overstatement of the rules, and there are exceptions, but it is generally true. The catch? Employees are not eligible to sue the employer in court for the injury. Instead, they must settle for what the workers’ compensation laws require the employer to pay.Employees can make these claims against their employers without an attorney. They usually must report their injury to a supervisor or personnel manager who then reviews their claim. …

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Common Questions About Work Injuries

For those who suffer injuries at work, finding out what your rights are and what options are available to you can often be difficult. When you suffer a work-related injury or become sick because of the conditions you were exposed to while working, you may be entitled to receive compensation. Like many areas of the law, work injuries are treated differently between states, though there are some general similarities that apply regardless of where you live.Workers’ CompensationInjuries in the workplace are unfortunately common. While some industries and jobs are more dangerous than others, almost anyone can suffer an injury while they work. Because of this, and because so many workers used to sue employers for being hurt because of the job, all states have developed a workers’ compensation insurance system. Also known as workman’s compensation or workman’s comp, these programs require employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. The insurance covers anyone who was injured at work and eliminates the need for those workers to have to sue the employer to recover damages.All states have their own workers’ compensation program, while the federal government has a program that covers a variety of federal employees.Illnesses and Injuries at WorkWorkers’ compensation systems protect workers from most injuries or illnesses they might suffer while on the job. In general, anyone who suffers a work-related injury or illness can receive compensation through the employer’s compensation insurance program. Whether you suffered the injury while at the workplace, on a business-related trip, or became ill as a result of workplace conditions, you are entitled to receive compensation for your injuries, lost pay, rehabilitation costs, and other expenses.However, there are some situations where you might not be entitled to recover money. If, for example, your injury resulted from you being intoxicated, were hurt after work, were injured because you started a fight, or other injuries that didn’t result as part of the requirements of performing your job, you probably won’t be able to recover any damages.Beyond Workers’ CompensationSome people who suffer injuries at work can go beyond the workers’ compensation requirements of the state and sue the employer directly. …

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Neurocognitive testing more accurate than self-reporting when assessing concussion recovery in cheerleaders

Aug. 8, 2013 — Concussions have become a major public health issue, with both short- and long-term side effects. In sports, cheerleading has the highest rate of catastrophic injury, with some studies reporting approximately 6% of total injuries as concussions. Return-to-play guidelines have relied on athletes’ self-reports; however, this has led to concerns about the ability of athletes to truly recognize their own symptoms and recovery.Share This:In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers evaluate the accuracy of neurocognitive testing compared with self-reported symptoms of concussions in cheerleaders.In the study, 138 junior and senior high school cheerleaders with concussions underwent pre-season baseline neurocognitive testing and completed at least one follow-up evaluation within 7 days of injury using Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). According to Dr. Mark R. Lovell and a colleague from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, “We hypothesized that the use of ImPACT would result in an increased capacity to detect and measure post-concussive abnormalities in cheerleaders compared with symptom assessment alone.” All concussions were diagnosed by a physician, athletic trainer, or other school health care official who was present at the time of injury.Overall, 62% of the cheerleaders reported an increase in symptoms after a concussion (e.g., headache, nausea, and dizziness) compared with their baseline. Of the cheerleaders who denied an increase in concussion symptoms from baseline, 33% had at least one ImPACT score that exceeded index criteria. This means that these cheerleaders reported their symptoms inaccurately, overestimated their recovery, or were unaware of their decreased neurocognitive performance.The results show that the addition of a neurocognitive assessment could be a useful tool to evaluate when cheerleaders with concussion have returned to normalized baseline measures. They also support the idea that self-reported symptoms and decreased neurocognitive test scores after concussion may differ. …

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Second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury

July 30, 2013 — A Toronto man is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, in this case a stroke.About nine months after suffering a stroke, the patient noticed that words written in a certain shade of blue evoked a strong feeling of disgust. Yellow was only slightly better. Raspberries, which he never used to eat very often, now tasted like blue — and blue tasted like raspberries.High-pitched brass instruments — specifically the brass theme from James Bond movies — elicited feelings of ecstasy and light blue flashes in his peripheral vision and caused large parts of his brain to light up on an MRI. Music played by a euphonium, a tenor-pitched brass instrument, shut down those sensations.The patient said he was initially frightened by the mixed messages his brain was sending him and the conflicting senses he was experiencing. He was so worried that something was seriously wrong with him that he raised it with a nurse only as he was leaving an appointment at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto.Physicians and researchers immediately recognized he had synesthesia, a neurological condition in which people experience more than one sense at the same time. They may “see” words or numbers as colours, hear sounds in response to smells or feel something in response to sight.Most synesthetes are born with the condition, and include some of the world’s most famous authors and artists, including author Vladimir Nabakov, composer Franz Liszt, painter Vasily Kandinsky and singer-songwriter Billy Joel.The Toronto patient is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, in this case a stroke. His case was described in the August issue of the journal Neurology by Dr. Tom Schweizer, a neuroscientist and director of the Neuroscience Research Program at St. Michael’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.Dr. …

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Novel mechanism in spinal cord injury discovered: ‘See-saw’ molecule may offer clues to potential therapies in the long-term

July 25, 2013 — More than 11,000 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year, and since over a quarter of those injuries are due to falls, the number is likely to rise as the population ages. The reason so many of those injuries are permanently disabling is that the human body lacks the capacity to regenerate nerve fibers. The best our bodies can do is route the surviving tissue around the injury site.”It’s like a detour after an earthquake,” says Kuo-Fen Lee, the Salk Institute’s Helen McLoraine Chair in Molecular Neurobiology. “If the freeway is down, but you can still take the side-streets, traffic can still move. So your strategy has to be to find a way to preserve as much tissue as possible, to give yourself a chance for that rerouting.”In a paper published in this week’s PLOS ONE, Lee and his colleagues describe how a protein named P45 may yield insight into a possible molecular mechanism to promote rerouting for spinal cord healing and functional recovery. Because injured mice can recover more fully than human beings, Lee sought the source of the difference. He discovered that P45 had a previously unknown neuroprotective effect.”As a biochemist and neurobiologist, this discovery gives me hope that we can find a potential target molecule for drug treatments,” says Lee. “Nevertheless, I must caution that this is only the first step in knowing what to look for.”In a human or a mouse, the success of an attempted rerouting after a spinal cord injury depends on how much healthy tissue is left. But wounds set off a cascade of reactions within cells, which if not stopped in time will result in more dead and dying tissue extending beyond the injury site. Nerve traction from the injury site leads to disconnection of the network required for normal sensory and motor functions. …

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Have a brain injury? You may be at higher risk for stroke

June 26, 2013 — People who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more likely to have a future stroke, according to research that appears in the June 26, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.”Both stroke and traumatic brain injury are common, costly, and leading causes of severe disability in adults, and approximately 20 percent of strokes occur in adults under age 65,” said study author James F. Burke, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “A large proportion of stroke risk is unexplained, especially in the young, so if we can identify new risk factors, we have the potential to prevent more strokes and improve outcomes.”For the study, researchers looked at the records of adults who went to the emergency department or were admitted to a hospital for TBI or other trauma with no brain injury in the state of California during a five-year period.A total of 435,630 people with traumatic brain injury were studied, along with 736,723 people with trauma with no brain injury. Over an average of 28 months following the injury, 11,229 people, or 1 percent, had an ischemic stroke. A total of 1.1 percent of those with TBI suffered a stroke, compared to 0.9 percent of those with trauma with no brain injury. With an ischemic stroke, blood flow to part of the brain is blocked. Eighty percent of strokes are ischemic.After adjusting for factors that can affect stroke risk, such as age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as other disorders such as heart disease and the severity of the trauma, the researchers found that people with traumatic brain injury were 30 percent more likely to develop a stroke than those with trauma with no brain injury.”While the stroke risk of one person with TBI is small, the overall link between TBI and stroke was substantial — as large as the link between the strongest stroke risk factor, high blood pressure, and stroke,” Burke said. “If further research establishes TBI as a new risk factor for stroke, that would stimulate research to help us understand what causes stroke after TBI and help us learn how to prevent these strokes.” The study was supported by an advanced fellowship through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Helmet crash tests: Don’t hit the road without one

June 13, 2013 — Bicycle helmets certified to Australia’s national standard significantly reduce the causes of head, skull and brain injury — linear and angular head accelerations, and the impact force of a crash — a new laboratory study has found.Crashing without a helmet exposes the head to accelerations and forces — or loads — up to 9.5 times greater than with a helmet and so greatly increases the risk of head, skull and brain injury, according to a detailed biomechanical study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.”Our findings confirm that bicycle helmets certified to AS/NZS 2063 do indeed work as intended and are effective in reducing linear and angular head accelerations, as well as impact force,” says the lead author of the study, Dr Andrew McIntosh.”These results directly counter unsupported claims to the contrary by some anti-helmet cycling campaigners.”Dr McIntosh is an adjunct Associate Professor at UNSW’s Transport and Road Safety Research Group and the Monash Injury Research Institute at Monash University.The study used crash-test dummies and an oblique-impact test rig to measure the loads placed on the human head in a variety of impacts that simulated the likely real-world results of falling from a bicycle at various speeds and heights.The researchers dropped a dummy head and neck from selected heights onto a moving impact surface to replicate real-world oblique impacts, and measured angular and linear acceleration, impact force and other parameters. The dummies were dropped up to 1.5 m and at a horizontal speed of up to 25 km/h.”When you look at injury risk, an unprotected head is likely to suffer concussion even dropping only half a metre while you are stationary,” says Dr McIntosh. “As the height of the drop and the horizontal speed increase, so does the risk of skull and brain injury.””We found that a helmeted head, however, is protected against serious injury until the most severe impacts in our study: even with a drop of 1.5 m and a speed of 25 km/h the helmet has an important protective effect.””The study also reinforced the need to adjust the helmet restraint system correctly to gain the most benefit. It also points to areas where helmets can be improved further by introducing oblique impact tests into consumer rating programs and/or standards.””An important component of the anti-bicycle helmet rhetoric is that helmets increase the risk of brain injury by increasing the angular acceleration of the head in an impact relative to no helmet. Our tests found that unsupported claim is wrong. In fact, there is a substantial effect of helmets in reducing head loads, including angular acceleration.”

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Traumatic brain injury patients treated with anti-spasm agent partially recover from disorders of consciousness

June 12, 2013 — At the International Neuromodulation Society’s 11th World Congress, Dr. Stefanos Korfias of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Athens will present the results of a clinical study led by Professor Damianos Sakas, which showed that two of six in-patients studied at Evangelismos Hospital in Athens steadily emerged from minimally conscious state after receiving intrathecal baclofen (ITB) after traumatic brain injury.The drug relaxes spasticity that can result from brain injury and may be used to facilitate care, but is not normally used to restore function. The patients, a 24-year-old man and a 29-year-old man, had been in minimally conscious states for three years and 18 months, respectively. Their scores on a revised coma recovery scale (with a maximum of 23) increased from 10 — 19 and 11 — 22, respectively.Minimally conscious state is defined as a consciousness disorder in which a patient shows fluctuating, but not reproducible, signs of self-awareness and the surroundings. Most patients in a minimally conscious state also have moderate to severe spasticity as a result of their injuries.Dr. Konstantinos Margetis, who contributed significantly to this study, notes that some sporadic case reports have suggested a potential beneficial effect of ITB in recovery from disorders of consciousness. He and colleagues decided to search for the effect in a systematic way. ITB was indicated in this study, he said, and in the previous case series, to reduce spasticity since it facilitates care and probably minimizes some spasticity complications.”The improvement in the level of consciousness was a very pleasant observation for us,” he said. “It might have been due to an additional beneficial effect of receiving intrathecal baclofen in this group of patients.” All six patients improved spasticity scores with treatment, and the two who also made gains in recovering consciousness apparently retained some ability, despite their brain injury, to sustain an awake, alert, and oriented state that might have been enhanced by the treatment. He hypothesizes the mechanism of this observed effect could be associated with the action of baclofen on receptors in the orexin system, which plays a role in maintaining wakefulness, and in the thalamic reticular nucleus, a brain structure associated with consciousness.Next he would like to see a larger, multi-center study evaluate such factors as brain and nervous system activity observed in functional and neural pathway imaging (fMRI and DTI MRI respectively); analysis of changes in neurotransmitters in the cerebrospinal fluid; and tracking electrical activity in neural networks or response to a stimulus (EEG and evoked potential recordings).”A complete research protocol designed with input from other disciplines will attempt to investigate every facet of this complex subject,” he remarked. …

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Transplant patient outcomes after trauma better than expected

June 10, 2013 — In the largest study of its kind, physicians from the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) have determined that outcomes for traumatic injury in patients with organ transplants are not worse than for non-transplanted patients, despite common presumptions among physicians. The findings, published in the June 2013 issue of The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, also show that transplanted organs are rarely injured in traumatic events.”Trauma teams should be encouraged that patients with prior organ transplants don’t do worse after injury, and that the transplanted organ (also known as a graft) is infrequently injured after trauma; however, our study did show that there may be an increased risk of graft rejection after trauma,” says the study’s lead author, Joseph R. Scalea, M.D., a surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “We recommend that patients be assessed by a transplant surgeon as soon as possible, and graft function should be closely followed by a transplant team during hospitalization and after discharge from the trauma center.”The study analyzed patients with prior organ transplants who were admitted to Shock Trauma from 2007-2011. Fifty patients with previous solid-organ transplants were admitted for traumatic injury during the period. The outcomes of these patients were compared with more than 13,000 non-transplanted patients admitted during the same period.One patient was admitted with a direct injury to a transplanted organ; three others had questionable graft injuries which did not affect organ function.In the months following trauma, a percentage of the transplant group went on to develop organ rejection. Long-term graft outcomes were followed at different institutions, but data for 41 transplant patients followed at the University of Maryland Medical Center (82 percent of study patients) showed seven patients (17 percent) with acute organ rejection within six months of admission for trauma.Transplant recipients, whose immune systems are already suppressed to prevent organ rejection, are presumed to be at greater risk of infection from traumatic injury; however, this was not observed in the current study.Severe trauma activates nearly all components of the immune system, triggering a series of responses that lead to inflammation, which can limit tissue damage and promotes repair and healing. Typical signs of inflammatory response include pain, swelling, heat, redness and/or loss of function. The University of Maryland research team’s findings offer insight into the pathophysiology of the inflammatory responses following traumatic injury. Too much inflammation can cause entire organ systems to shut down, whereas not enough inflammation may prohibit a patient from developing the appropriate response to an injury or infection. …

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Stem cell injections improve spinal injuries in rats

May 27, 2013 — An international team led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reports that a single injection of human neural stem cells produced neuronal regeneration and improvement of function and mobility in rats impaired by an acute spinal cord injury (SCI).

The findings are published in the May 28, 2013 online issue of Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

Martin Marsala, MD, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, with colleagues at UC San Diego and in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and The Netherlands, said grafting neural stem cells derived from a human fetal spinal cord to the rats’ spinal injury site produced an array of therapeutic benefits — from less muscle spasticity to new connections between the injected stem cells and surviving host neurons.

“The primary benefits were improvement in the positioning and control of paws during walking tests and suppression of muscle spasticity,” said Marsala, a specialist in spinal cord trauma and spinal injury-related disorders. Spasticity — exaggerated muscle tone or uncontrolled spasms — is a serious and common complication of traumatic injury to the spinal cord.

The human stem cells, said the scientists, appeared to vigorously take root at the injury site.

“In all cell-grafted animals, there was robust engraftment, and neuronal maturation of grafted human neurons was noted,” Marsala said. “Importantly, cysts or cavities that can form in or around spinal injuries were not present in any cell-treated animal. The injury-caused cavity was completely filled by grafted cells.”

The rats received the pure stem cell grafts three days after injury (no other supporting materials were used) and were given drugs to suppress an immune response to the foreign stem cells. Marsala said grafting at any time after the injury appears likely to work in terms of blocking the formation of spinal injury cavities, but that more work would be required to determine how timing affects functional neurological benefit.

The grafted stem cells, according to Marsala, appear to be doing two things: stimulating host neuron regeneration and partially replacing the function of lost neurons.

“Grafted spinal stem cells are rich source of different growth factors which can have a neuroprotective effect and can promote sprouting of nerve fibers of the host neurons. We have also demonstrated that grafted neurons can develop contacts with the host neurons and, to some extent, restore the connectivity between centers, above and below the injury, which are involved in motor and sensory processing.”

The scientists used a line of human embryonic stem cells recently approved for Phase 1 human trials in patients with chronic traumatic spinal injuries. Marsala said the ultimate goal is to develop neural precursor cells (capable of becoming any of the three main cell types in the nervous system) from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients, which would likely eliminate the need for immunosuppression treatment.

Pending approval by UC San Diego’s Institutional Review Board, the next step is a small phase 1 trial to test safety and efficacy with patients who have suffered a thoracic spinal cord injury (between vertebrae T2-T12) one to two years earlier, and who have no motor or sensory function at or below the spinal injury site.

“This is exciting, especially because, historically, there has been very little to offer patients with acute spinal cord injury,” said study co-author Joseph Ciacci, MD, professor of surgery and program director of the Neurosurgery Residency at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Ciacci, who is also chief of neurosurgery for the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, will oversee the clinical trial at UC San Diego and the VA.

Ciacci said if the initial study confirms safety and efficacy, as well as the viability of the implanted cells, neural regeneration and decreased spasticity, the protocol can be expanded to other patients with other forms of severe spinal cord injury.

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