Spinal cord injury is obviously a devastating condition. For years stem cells have seemed like they would hold all of the answers for a possible cure, but progress has been slow. A recent animal study from UC Irvine’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center has succeeded in engrafting human neural stem cells in mice with early-spinal cord injuries, and brought stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries just a tiny bit closer to clinical reality.
The researchers used a strain of mouse that has no specific immune system that can reject the grafted cells. The investigators gave these mice blunt spinal injuries. Stem cells from fetal brains were sorted and cultured, and then injected into the injured spinal cord sites 30 days after the trauma. This period of spinal cord injury is regarded as the “early chronic” phase, and so far attempts to use stem cell therapy in this phase have failed. In these new experiments the mice demonstrated sustained improved motor function 3 months after treatment. The mice also demonstrated no allodynia (the sensation of pain with benign stimulation), a feared complication of spinal cord injury therapy.
From the press release:
“Human neural stem cells are a novel therapeutic approach that holds much promise for spinal cord injury,” said Anderson, associate professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation and anatomy & neurobiology at UC Irvine. “This study builds on the extensive work we previously published in the acute phase of injury and offers additional hope to those who are paralyzed or have impaired motor function.”
“About 1.3 million individuals in the U.S. are living with chronic spinal cord injury,” added Cummings, associate professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation and anatomy & neurobiology. “This latest study provides additional evidence that human neural stem cells may be a viable treatment approach for them.”
Press release: Human stem cells restore motor function in mice …
Paper in PLoS: Human Neural Stem Cells Differentiate and Promote Locomotor Recovery in an Early Chronic Spinal coRd Injury NOD-scid Mouse Model
Flashback: Stem cell treatment improves mobility after spinal cord injury