Stem cell scarring aids recovery from spinal cord injury

October 31, 2013

In a new study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that the scar tissue formed by stem cells after a spinal cord injury does not impair recovery; in fact, stem cell scarring confines the damage. The findings, which are published in the scientific journal Science, indicate that scar tissue prevents the lesion from expanding and helps injured nerve cells survive.

Spinal cord injuries sever nerve fibres that conduct signals between the brain and the rest of the body, causing various degrees of paralysis depending on the site and extent of the injury. Functional impairment is often permanent, since the cut nerve fibres do not grow back. The lack of regeneration has been attributed to a blockage from that forms at the lesion. It has therefore been suggested that the nerve fibres could regenerate and that recovery could improve if scar formation is inhibited, and many proposed therapeutic strategies have been designed around this concept.

In the present study, the researchers focused on spinal cord , which are one of the main sources of the scar tissue that is formed after spinal cord injury. They found that when blocking scar formation by preventing the stem cells from forming new cells after an injury, the injury gradually expanded, and more were severed. They also observed that more spinal cord died in these mice compared to mice with intact stem cell function, which were able to form normal scar tissue.

"It turned out that scarring from stem cells was necessary for stabilising the injury and preventing it from spreading," says principal investigator Professor Jonas Frisén at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. "Scar tissue also facilitated the survival of damaged nerve cells. Our results suggest that more rather than less stem cell scarring could limit the consequences of a spinal cord injury."

The video will load shortly
The animation shows a simplified view of lesion development after spinal cord injuries in mice, with and without the resident neural stem cell injury response. The neural stem cells (green) respond to injury by producing progeny that migrate to the lesion site where they contribute to the forming glial scar. Without the neural stem cell response, the injury gradually expands and more nerve fibers are cut off, suggesting that the neural stem cell-derived scar tissue prevents the lesion from expanding. The findings are published in Science, November 1, 2013 by Professor Jonas Frisén and colleagues at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Credit: Mattias Karlén

According to earlier animal studies, recovery can be improved by transplanting stem cells to the injured spinal cord. The new findings suggest that stimulating the 's own stem cells could offer an alternative to cell transplantation.

Explore further: Unexpected cell repairs injured spinal cord

More information: 'Resident Neural Stem Cells Restrict Tissue Damage and Neuronal Loss After Spinal Cord Injury in Mice', Hanna Sabelström, Moa Stenudd, Pedro Réu, David O. Dias, Marta Elfineh, Sofia Zdunek, Peter Damberg, Christian Göritz, Jonas Frisén, Science, online 1 November 2013.

Related Stories

Unexpected cell repairs injured spinal cord

July 7, 2011
Lesions to the brain or spinal cord rarely heal fully, which leads to permanent functional impairment. After injury to the central nervous system (CNS), neurons are lost and largely replaced by a scar often referred to as ...

Technique to promote nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury restores bladder function in rats

June 25, 2013
Using a novel technique to promote the regeneration of nerve cells across the site of severe spinal cord injury, researchers have restored bladder function in paralyzed adult rats, according to a study in the June 26 issue ...

Discovery may help nerve regeneration in spinal injury

November 6, 2012
Scientists at the Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow have uncovered a possible new method of enhancing nerve repair in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

Biphasic electrical stimulation: A strategy may bring hope to spinal cord injury patients

August 24, 2013
Researchers at the Beihang University School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, led by Dr. Yubo Fan, have discovered that Biphasic Electrical stimulation (BES), a non-chemical procedure, may be used as a strategy ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

0 comments

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.