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Failed Stem Cell Treatment Sees Patient Growing A Nose In Her Spine

By 07.29.14

Stem cell treatments are promising, but still in their scientific infancy. All sorts of strange things are going to happen. Like, for example, growing a nose in your spine.

How, precisely, does a nose start growing where a nose should not be? When you let doctors in Portugal try to heal your spine with the wrong stem cells, according to the New Scientist, and we’re not talking a minor nose. We’re talking a full-on runny one:

The surgeons removed a 3-centimetre-long growth, which was found to be mainly nasal tissue, as well as bits of bone and tiny nerve branches that had not connected with the spinal nerves.

The growth wasn’t cancerous, but it was secreting a “thick copious mucus-like material”, which is probably why it was pressing painfully on her spine, says Brian Dlouhy at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, the neurosurgeon who removed the growth.

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The patient was a volunteer for early stage trials at a Lisbon hospital, where stem cells from, you guessed it, the nose were transplanted into the spine. Generally, when you pull stem cells from a body part, you grow them in the lab to make sure that, you know, you’re not going to be featured on snarky nerd blogs for some atrocity of medical science, but Lisbon’s researchers were rebels and skipped that part. The theory was that they would become neural cells, possibly healing her spine. To be fair, out of twenty people, eleven recovered some movement, but then there’s this whole “nose in your spine” thing.

Our unnamed patient here beat the odds and had something both weird and awful happen to her, but it’s a useful reminder that even if you think you have nothing to lose, there are still risks in a procedure. But at least she’s got a story nobody can one-up at parties!


TAGSMedicinesciencespinal injurySTEM CELLSthe nose knows

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