Stem Cells Treat Spinal Cord Injury in Mice

Procedure regenerated tissue, improved mobility, researchers say

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MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've used adult human neural stem cells to regenerate damaged spinal cord tissue and improve mobility in mice with injured spinal cords.

This success by researchers at the University of California, Irvine shows the potential of using human adult neural stem cells in order to treat spinal cord injury patients.

"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," researcher Brian Cummings of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center said in a prepared statement.

"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," Cummings said. The findings appear in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

After the researchers injected the stem cells into the mice, these cells -- which can develop into a range of neural cell types -- differentiated into new cells called oligodendrocytes that restored the myelin lining damaged axons in the mice.

Myelin is a nerve fiber covering that plays a critical role in maintaining the nervous system's electrical conduction. When injury or disease affects myelin, it can result in sensory and motor deficiencies and paralysis.

The transplanted stem cells also differentiated into new neurons that formed synaptic connections with the mouse neurons, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about spinal cord injury.

SOURCE: University of California, Irvine news release, Sept. 19, 2005

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