If ever there was a case of fringe science setting a bad example and rubbing the right wing the wrong way, this one’s a shining example. Eight years ago, doctors took nasal tissue samples and grafted them onto the spines of 20 quadriplegics. You might be asking yourself why about now, but it’s fairly simple. The idea was that stem cells within the nasal tissue might turn into neurons that could help repair the damaged spinal cord, and the experiment actually worked a few of the patients, who regained a little bit of sensation.
It didn’t go well for one woman in particular, who not only failed to experience any abatement in her paralysis, but recently started feeling pain at the site of the implant. When doctors took a closer look, they realized she was growing the beginnings of a nose on her spine, New Scientist reports: “The surgeons removed a 3-centimeter-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.”
This certainly isn’t the first case of adverse side effects from a stem cell transplant. Several cases where people developed tumors after participating in clinical trials. Private companies continue to offer $20,000 experimental procedures with similar results. If you want an extra appendage somewhere, this is apparently how to get it done. Mess with the grand design casually and you’re in for a treat.