CLEVELAND, Oct. 15, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Athersys, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATHX) presented new research results this morning at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in New Orleans, demonstrating the potential for MultiStem ®, a novel stem cell therapy being developed by Athersys, to treat spinal cord injury (SCI). The work conducted by Athersys scientists, in collaboration with scientists from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and with grant support from the Ohio Third Frontier, illustrates the potential benefits of MultiStem therapy for treating SCI. In a preclinical rodent model of SCI, researchers observed that intravenous administration of MultiStem cells one day after injury results in accelerated recovery, significant improvements in locomotor function and fine motor tests, and significant improvement in bladder function. According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are currently more than 1,200,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injury, with a range of 15,000 to more than 50,000 new cases each year. The long-term cost of spinal cord damage is estimated to be from $500,000 to more than $3 million per patient, depending on the severity of the injury. Among other SCI complications, loss of bladder control is considered a major issue by SCI patients. "Spinal cord injury can be devastating to patients and their families," said Robert Mays, Ph.D., Head of Neuroscience at Athersys. "These results suggest that an off-the-shelf cell therapy, such as MultiStem, administered intravenously shortly after the injury, may have the potential to provide substantial and meaningful benefits to patients." In preclinical experiments, rodents with SCI from contusion in the thoracic region were given an intravenous injection of vehicle or MultiStem cells one day after the injury. The animals treated with MultiStem showed significant and sustained improvement in gross locomotor and fine motor function compared to vehicle treated animals over the ten week evaluation period. Additionally, significant improvements in bladder function were observed in the animals treated with MultiStem shortly after the SCI. These results build on previous data, published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrating that this cell therapy reduces inflammation in the region of injury and also promotes the regrowth of neurons in the site of injury. Jerry Silver, PhD, the lead academic investigator on the project and a Professor in the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, commented on the potential for intravenous administration of MultiStem to benefit SCI patients. "I am excited by this non-invasive, acute-treatment approach which represents a novel treatment strategy with the potential to safely and more effectively treat acute spinal cord injury and its related complications."