Stem cell transplants show promising results for spinal cord injuries in mice
New research from Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden), revealed promising progress in the use of stem cells for treatment of spinal cord injury.
The results demonstrated that human stem cells that are transplanted to the injured spinal cord contribute to restoration of some sensory functions. The findings were recently published in Scientific Reports.
Traffic accidents and severe falls can cause ruptures of nerve fibers that enter/exit the spinal cord. Most commonly, these avulsion injuries affect the innervation of the arm and hand, and lead to paralysis, loss of sensation and cause chronic pain.
Surgical interventions can help the patient regain some muscle function, however there are currently no treatments to restore sensory functions.
This is due to the emergence of a “barrier” at the junction between the ruptured nerve fibers and the spinal cord which prevents them from growing into the spinal cord and restore lost nerve connections.
In a new study, led by Elena Kozlova from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, the research group transplanted human stem cells to an avulsion injury in mice with the aim to restore a functional route for sensory information from peripheral tissues into the spinal cord.
The results indicate that the transplanted stem cells act as a ”bridge” which allows injured sensory nerve fibers to grow into the spinal cord, rebuild functional nerve connections, and thereby achieve long term restoration of major parts of the lost sensory functions. The transplanted stem cells differentiated to different types of cells with variable level of maturation, specific to the nervous system. Importantly, there were no signs of tumor development or any functional abnormalities from the transplants observed in the study, outcomes which are crucial in view of potential risks associated with embryonic stem cell transplants.
These positive results encourage further research on the use of stem cells for treatment of injury and disease in the spinal cord and may contribute to the development of novel treatment strategies in these disorders.
Sources:Hoeber J, Trolle C, König N et al. Human embryonic stem cell-derived progenitors assist functional sensory regeneration after dorsal root avulsion injury. Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/srep10666 (2015) [Epub ahead of print]; Uppsala Unversity press release: http://www.uu.se/en/media/press-releases/press-release/?id=2746&area=3,8&typ=pm&lang=en