Stem cells repair damaged spinal cords in mice

Injections of human stem cells seem to directly repair some of the damage caused by spinal cord injury, according to research that helped partially paralyzed mice walk again.

“We set out to find whether these cells would be able to respond to the injury in an appropriate and beneficial way on their own,” said Brian Cummings, first author of the paper.

“We were excited to find that the cells responded to the damage by making appropriate new cells that could assist in repair. This study supports the possibility that formation of new myelin and new neurons may contribute to recovery.”

Mice that received human neural stem cells nine days after spinal cord injury showed improvements in walking ability compared to those that received either no cells or a control transplant of human fibroblast cells, which cannot differentiate into nervous system cells.

The bulk of injected stem cells formed oligodendrocytes, a different type of cell that forms myelin, the insulation coating that is key for nerve fibers to transmit the electrical signals they use to communicate.

The research was funded by the nonprofit Christopher Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. StemCells Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., provided the fetal-derived stem cells.

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National Geographic

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