Stem cells restore mobility in neck-injured rats (w/ Video)

November 10, 2009 by Jennifer Fitzenberger

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first human embryonic stem cell treatment approved by the FDA for human testing has been shown to restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries - a finding that could expand the clinical trial to include people with cervical damage.

In January, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., permission to test the UC Irvine treatment in individuals with thoracic injuries, which occur below the neck. However, trying it in those with cervical damage wasn't approved because preclinical testing with hadn't been completed.

Results of the cervical study currently appear online in the journal Stem Cells. UCI scientist Hans Keirstead hopes the data will prompt the FDA to authorize clinical testing of the treatment in people with both types of spinal cord damage. About 52 percent of are cervical and 48 percent thoracic.

"People with cervical damage often have lost or impaired limb movement and bowel, bladder or sexual function, and currently there's no effective treatment. It's a challenging existence," said Keirstead, a primary author of the study. "What our therapy did to injured rodents is phenomenal. If we see even a fraction of that benefit in humans, it will be nothing short of a home run."

A week after test with 100 percent walking ability suffered neck , some received the stem cell treatment. The walking ability of those that didn't degraded to 38 percent. Treated rats' ability, however, was restored to 97 percent.

UCI's therapy utilizes human destined to become spinal cord cells called oligodendrocytes. These are the building blocks of myelin, the biological insulation for nerve fibers that's critical to proper functioning of the central nervous system. When myelin is stripped away through injury or disease, paralysis can occur.

Lead author and doctoral student Jason Sharp, Keirstead and colleagues discovered that the stem cells not only rebuilt myelin but prevented tissue death and triggered nerve fiber regrowth. They also suppressed the immune response, causing an increase in anti-inflammatory molecules.

"The transplant created a healing environment in the spinal cord," said Keirstead, who is co-director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and on the faculty of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center - named for late actor Christopher Reeve, who became a quadriplegic after a cervical injury.

Source: University of California - Irvine

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Therapy for muscular dystrophy-caused heart failure also improves muscle function in mice

February 22, 2018
Injections of cardiac progenitor cells help reverse the fatal heart disease caused by Duchenne muscular dystrophy and also lead to improved limb strength and movement ability, a new study shows.

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plasticpower
not rated yet Nov 10, 2009
We need to be investing more money in this type of research. Stem cells to medicine are like carbon nanotubes to overall technology.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.