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Self-Renewing Spinal Nerve Cells Created

New line could someday be used to replace dead or dying cells in damaged spines

MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new method of creating an unlimited supply of spinal nerve cells has been developed by University of Rochester Medical Center scientists.

This self-renewing cell line offers scientists a constant supply of laboratory-produced spinal nerve cells. It could also be used someday to replace dead or dying spinal nerve cells in people with neurological diseases or damaged spinal cords.

The study, in the March issue of Nature Biotechnology, describes how the University of Rochester scientists created the cells and how they used the cells to re-grow parts of damaged spinal cords in laboratory animals.

The scientists created the special cells by placing a gene called telomerase, which gives stem cells the ability to live indefinitely, into progenitor cells. Normally, these progenitor cells give rise to specific types of spinal nerve cells. But the progenitor cells can only do this for a short time because they can't continuously divide.

But adding the telomerase gene to the progenitor cells allows them to continuously divide while still producing specific types of spinal nerve cells.

The scientists make it clear that much more research is required before any tests can be conducted using these cells in people with damaged spinal cords or neurological diseases.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has information about spinal cord injuries.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, Feb. 15, 2004
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