60 Minutes brazenly reports the lie “A cure for paralysis.” Let’s look at the science, shall we?

Short Abstract:

My wife got control of the remote last night, and in a half conscious state, put on an episode of the hack television journal 60 Minutes that overtly declared that “some dude” had cured paralysis … showing his grieving father’s emotional rejuvenation at the idea his son will walk again (thoroughly convinced).

On last night’s episode of 60 Minutes (for anyone following internationally, there are several versions of 60 minutes: this one is Australian based), the lead headline for the evenings program was “A cure for paralysis.”

The lead headline was not “is there …” a cure, or, “could there” be one …


Nor was it “there is not” a cure, or “local Dr. accepts 2 million dollars in funds to conduct brazen experiment on living human being.”

The headline was not “Desperate father duped into believing in the impossible.”


No, the headline 60 minutes decided to go with was simple – a local Australian Dr. has simply cured paralysis – and you know what? It turns out it’s incredibly easy to do!

All you’ve got to do to cure total paralysis is to go to the cite of the contusion (the 7th vertabrae in this case) and make a tiny bridge from the corrupted peripheral nervous system point back to the central nervous system site. In other words, a magical bridge connecting the site of the trauma … made of cells ripped out of the patients own olfactory bulb. It’s easy!

Wake a second – it’s not, and it doesn’t work. In fact, the evidence that it works is scarcely available even in cases where actual “perfect” stem cells” were available – much less … cells specifically programmed to work as eye receptors.

Let’s check what pub med has to say in a tiny literature review:

J Neurosurg Spine. 2005 Oct;3(4):308-17.

Olfactory glia transplantation into cervical spinal cord contusion injuries. Collazos-Castro JE1, Muñetón-Gómez VC, Nieto-Sampedro M.

Procedure:  “The authors studied axonal growth and locomotor recovery after C-7 contusion injury and OEC transplantation in adult rats.” l will paraphrase it – but it’s the same procedure. 27 rats were chosen. 10 were control rats. 17 of them got eyeball cells to use to fix the tiny man-made (much less complex) lesions on the spine.

Result: They all died. In fact, when the olfactory cells tried to start “building” the magical bridge across the lesion, they actually went nuts – they became pathological.

“Although the survival of transplanted cells varied, they were present in all cases. The authors observed neither OEC migration nor DCST axon regeneration in any of the cell transplant-treated rats. Corticospinal axons ended in retraction bulbs at the proximal edge of the lesion or, exceptionally, a few micrometers inside the transplant.”

Translation: In the most successful cases, the cells created a huge weird build a few millimeters in diameter that killed the rats.

“OECs can induce abnormal axonal growth, making further studies necessary before considering their clinical use.”

Translation: Really weird mutations occur – not magical bridges.

Let’s look at a second study, we’ll limit it to two for bevity’s sake:

Here’s a study from 2008 on shoving weird cells into the cavity between the lesion a traumatic injury like a knife makes between the spine and the central nervous system:

Exp Neurol. 2008 Aug;212(2):261-74. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2008.03.010. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Xenografts of expanded primate olfactory ensheathing glia support transient behavioral recovery that is independent of serotonergic or corticospinal axonal regeneration in nude rats following spinal cord transection. Guest JD1, Herrera L, Margitich I, Oliveria M, Marcillo A, Casas CE.

Short, less technical conclusion/Abstract:

Magical eyeball cell injections don’t help people to walk or regain feeling. Several other “interesting” sort of peripheral processes were observed (which, clearly, will happen when mad scientists shove weird cells from one part of a mammal into another and let them grow out of control). It failed. The researches suggested MAYBE upping the experimentation to a primate, at best (shudder).

Long abstract directly from pub-med article:

“In grafted animals, behavioral recovery, sprouting and limited regeneration of 5-HT fibers, and increased numbers of proximal collateral processes but not regeneration of CST fibers was observed. Grafted animals had less cavitation in the spinal cord stumps than controls. Behavioral recovery peaked at three months and then declined. Five POEG-transplanted animals that had shown behavioral recovery underwent retransection and behavioral scores did not change significantly, suggesting that long tract axonal regeneration did not account for the locomotor improvement. At the ultrastructural level presumptive POEG were found to have direct contacts with astrocytes forming the glia limitans, distinct from those formed by Schwann cells. At 6 weeks GFP expression was detected in cells within the lesion site and within nerve roots but did not match the pattern of Hoechst nuclear labeling.”

No, then, this doesn’t work.

A magical bridge.
A magical bridge.

I’m not sure what happened in the odd, almost entirely without detail anecdotal case that was presented as full-proof evidence of the success of this process (some unnamed Polish fellow). Who knows – we don’t.

We do know it’s never been documented as working, it hasn’t worked, and that research tells us that in the best case scenarios we should think about continuing “peripheral” study of how injecting cells from one part of the body to the other might create outcomes.

Real Life Conclusion:

You could’ve spent the time you spent on this cruelly deceptive segment by doing some political advocacy to advance the use of stem-cells, 60 minutes. They actually DO work – they actually ARE replacement cells that can fill up gaps that other cells have vacated.

Shame on you for lying – shame on you for becoming the highest rated television show in your time slot with baseless claims about how Dr. X can cure paralysis.


Now – next Sunday my wife does NOT get control of the remote and we WILL be watching Netflix related things instead.


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