Wellington, April 21 NZPA - Clinical trials for a treatment which takes nerve tissue from the nose and inserts it into the spinal cord to help people with chronic spinal injuries are close to starting.
The Multi Region Ethics Committee confirmed today that the New Zealand Spinal Cord Society had satisfied all the conditions imposed when the groups met in November.
However, the committee still required data safety monitoring information from the Health Research Council, a locality assessment from Otago University and Otago District Health Board and information about funding for the trial, before it gave the full go-ahead.
Spinal Cord Society chairman Noela Vallis said the society was confident the outstanding information could be provided by May 19 and the trials would begin.
"We cannot crack the champagne just yet, but I can hear it fizzing," Mrs Vallis said.
Another hurdle the society faces is to fund a $2 million budget for the trials over the next year or more.
Mrs Vallis said funds had been promised from a number of sources, but essentially the society has no Government backing.
"We will need to attract community backing. We have set up a website and an 0900 donation line," she said.
"We are poised to bring possibly the greatest medical breakthrough in a century and we are doing it as a charitable organisation," she said.
The procedure, which involves extracting nerve tissue from a volunteer's nose and inserting this into the injured area of the spinal cord, will initially be tried on 12 people.
The same operation had been carried out overseas in countries such as Portugal, Italy, Japan and China on well over 100 people with few negative side-effects and varying degrees of improvement for each patient, Mrs Vallis said.
This had included recovering bowel and bladder-function, through to extra feeling and movement in limbs.
"The results are widely varied in different patients, but an important factor is that there have been few negative side-effects."
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