Stem cell injections improve function, mobility in rodent model

Injections of human neural stem cells produced neuronal regeneration and improved function and mobility in rats with acute spinal cord injuries (SCI), according to a study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine grafted human fetal spinal cord-derived neural stem cells in rats 3 days after an L3 spinal compression injury. The rats were also given drugs to suppress an immune response to the foreign stem cells.

The researchers found that the stem cells stimulated host neuron regeneration and partially replaced the function of lost neurons. There also was a significant improvement in lower extremity paw placement and suppression of muscle spasticity, and a normalization in thermal and tactile pain/escape thresholds 8 weeks after the grafting.

The stem cells used in the study were recently approved for a phase 1 human trial in patients with chronic traumatic spinal injuries. The trial is pending approval by UC San Diego’s institutional review board, and if approved, it will test safety and efficacy of the treatment in patients with T2-T12 SCIs.

“This is exciting, especially because there has been very little to offer patients with acute spinal cord injury," Joseph Ciacci, MD, study co-author, professor of surgery and program director of neurosurgery residency at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and chief of neurosurgery at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, stated in a news release.

Ciacci, who will oversee the clinical trial at UC San Diego and the VA, added that if the initial study can confirm safety and efficacy, as well as the viability of the implanted cells, neural regeneration and decreased spasticity, the protocol could be expanded to treat other forms of spinal cord injury.

For more information:

van Gorp. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 2013. doi:10.1186/scrt209.

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