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Buoniconti May Have Spinal Cord Injury Cure Breakthrough

Marc Buoniconti, the son of former Florida Dolphins Hall-of-Famer Nick Buoniconti, was playing in a college football game for The Citadel when he suffered an injury that paralyzed him from the neck down. That was twenty-five years ago.

That day ended Marc Buoniconti’s football career, but Florida spinal cord injury lawyers are saying it may also mark the beginning of a research project that could have a worldwide impact that no football career could ever have.

Buiniconti’s injury was the inspiration for the Florida Project to Cure Paralysis. When it was founded, there was not much hope that spinal cord injuries could be reversed. Now, the project is taking a step toward a cure.

Marc Buoniconti says of the project, “We took a lot of risk, made bold decisions and it’s paying off. The same people criticizing us in 1985 are applauding us now. We started in a little closet, had one scientist and a lot of hope.”

The project now has 250 doctors, scientists, technicians, researchers and Marc as president. Despite being a quadriplegic, Marc leads fund-raising efforts, bringing in more than $350 million.

Dr. Dalton Dietrich, The Florida Project’s scientific director, says “We have not cured paralysis by any means, but we think Schwann cells, plus other drugs that we’re working on…that combination approach, would provide even better function in the future.”

The treatment he is referring to is one that uses a patient’s own cells to repair a damaged spinal cord. The cells are knnown as Schwann cells.

Schwann cell transplants have worked in lab animals, giving movement to animals that were paralyzed. The project is hoping for FDA approval for a human trial next year.

Buoniconti explained, “I might not be able to do the things I did before, but if I’m up and I’m independent and I’m more active and I can take care of myself, that would make life a whole lot better.”

Many millions of people with spinal cord injuries could benefit.

Buoniconti has a normal life expectancy and lives an active life from his wheelchair, but soon he may be able to live more of his life out of the wheelchair.

Source: NBC Florida “25 Years Later, Buoniconti’s Close to a Cure” 10/21/2010

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