Spinal Cord Injury in Mice Repaired with Human Stem Cells

Spinal Cord Injury in Mice Repaired with Human Stem Cells

According to new research published recently in the United States, partially paralyzed mice who received human stem cells injected into the damaged spinal cord experienced a significant improvement in their condition.  The human stem cells, supplied by a California company, StemCells Inc, formed new neural cells in the treated mice.  These neural cells included oligodendrocytes, which help to transmit electric signals to damaged spinal cord nerve cells. 

This research was performed at the University of California at Irvine and funded by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and National Institutes for Health.  Researchers designed the study to determine the effect of human stem cell treatment on mice with partial paralysis from spinal cord injury.  One group of mice was injected with human stem cells and the other group was not.  Sixteen weeks after the transplants, all the mice with spinal cord injuries were evaluated.  The paralyzed mice that stem cell treatment showed “long-term recovery” in walking ability, whereas their non-treated counterparts did not. 

Though much more research needs to be completed, this study provides hope that humans with spinal cord injuries may benefit from stem cell treatment.  The UC Irvine researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that, “Additional animal studies are necessary both to establish the mechanisms of recovery and to evaluate the potential of these cells for possible therapeutic use.”  It is also unclear how long stem cell treatment provides desirable effects in subjects with spinal cord injury. 

StemCell Inc. recently filed an application requesting permission from the federal government to begin administering human stem cell treatment to infants with Batten disease.  Batten disease is a fatal hereditary condition that destroys the nervous system, leading to vision loss, seizures, mental retardation, loss of motor and cognitive skills, and death. 

If the results of this spinal cord injury research prove consistent and show sustained benefit in subsequent studies, stem cells may be the most promising treatment ever developed for people who become paralyzed from spinal cord injury and other neurologic conditions, like Batten disease.  At least 250,000 Americans are currently living with paralysis from spinal cord injury.  Each year, another 11,000 people suffer a serious spinal cord injury.  Most of these largely preventable injuries are the result of vehicle accidents or other personal injury situations. 



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