Stem cells aid spinal cord injured
Human neural stem cells can replace damaged cells and improve function in a mouse model of spinal cord injury, according to a report released Monday.
For treating spinal cord injury, “there is hope, but we are a long way off,” said Dr. Brian J. Cummings from University of California, Irvine. “Our study improved function in mice with very controlled injuries. We did not cure these mice.”
Cummings and colleagues injected human neural stem cells into the site of spinal cord contusion injury in mice and followed their progress.
The human cells survived and engrafted extensively within the injured mouse spinal cord, the authors report, with cells persisting 17 weeks after transplantation.
Injected neural stem cells differentiated into neurons and formed synapses—connections between neurons, the researchers note.
Mice injected with human neural stem cells showed evidence of recovering coordinated locomotor function and stepping ability 16 weeks after engraftment, the report indicates.
“To our knowledge,” the investigators write, “this is the longest time that mice receiving stem cell grafts of any type have been tracked behaviorally.”
Treatment of mice with toxin targeting the human cells resulted in decreased locomotor function, the results indicate. “This suggests that at least some of the recovery was the result of integration between the grafted cells and the host cells,” Cummings said.
Summing up, Cummings said future treatments for spinal cord injury will likely involve a combination of therapies noting that “spinal cord injury is a very complex syndrome, and no one treatment will solve the entire problem.”
SOURCE: PNAS Early Online Edition, September 19, 2005.
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