The group, whose findings were published in the May 28, 2013 online issue of Stem Cell Research & Therapy, injected human neural stem cells into the animals three days after injury. In a press release from UCSD, the scientists say that eight weeks later the animals were able to control their paws better after receiving the injections and had less muscle spasticity.
They quote Martin Marsala, who led the work:
“Grafted spinal stem cells are rich source of different growth factors which can have a neuroprotective effect and can promote sprouting of nerve fibers of the host neurons. We have also demonstrated that grafted neurons can develop contacts with the host neurons and, to some extent, restore the connectivity between centers, above and below the injury, which are involved in motor and sensory processing.”The animals in this study had to have their immune systems suppressed to prevent them from rejecting the injected cells. The scientists say they are hoping to start a small phase 1 trial testing these cells in people with spinal cord injuries, and they'd also like to try creating neural stem cells by reprogramming the patient's own cells. Those cells would avoid the need for immune-suppressing drugs.
CIRM funds several teams of researchers exploring different ways of using stem cells to treat spinal cord injury. You can see the full list of those awards on our spinal cord injury fact sheet. The teams are testing different types of stem cells and different approaches to injecting those cells to see which is most effective at healing the injury.
CIRM Funding: Martin Marsala (RM1-01720)
van Gorp, S., Leerink, M., Kakinohana, O., Platoshyn, O., Santucci, C., Galik, J., Joosten, E., Hruska-Plochan, M., Goldberg, D., Marsala, S., Johe, K., Ciacci, J., & Marsala, M. (2013). Amelioration of motor/sensory dysfunction and spasticity in a rat model of acute lumbar spinal cord injury by human neural stem cell transplantation Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 4 (5) DOI: 10.1186/scrt209