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Healing Spinal Injuries with Lab-Grown Neural Stem Cells

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 17 September 2018
Healing Spinal Injuries with Lab-Grown Neural Stem Cells

A University of California San Diego study has used lab-grown neural stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries in rats for the first time ever. Created from embryonic human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) in vitro, the researchers say their revolutionary method provided long-lasting and extensive spinal cord injury recovery in the rats.

"Our observations show that these spinal cord NSCs differentiate into a diverse population of spinal cord neurons occupying multiple positions along the dorso-ventral axis, and can be maintained for prolonged time periods," the researchers wrote in Nature Methods. "Grafts into injured spinal cords were rich with excitatory neurons, extended large numbers of axons over long distances, innervated their target structures, and enabled robust corticospinal regeneration."

How Spinal Cord Injuries Work

To understand why this study is important, you need to understand how spinal cord injuries work. The spinal cord connects the brain with nerves throughout the body via spinal cord neurons which help transmit messages. When spinal cord injuries occur, the communication between the brain and nerves through the spinal cord is disrupted, resulting in the loss of feeling and function in the body, depending on the severity of the injury.

By introducing these neural stem cells, that communication between brain, nerves, and spinal cord could theoretically be restarted. The restoration of feeling and function to people who have suffered spinal cord injuries has been the holy grail for stem cell research since its inception, and UC San Diego's study provides hope that we are nearing that point.

The Future of Stem Cell Research into Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

In the short-term however, researchers note that their method of producing NSCs using hPSCs is highly scalable and has strong applications for disease modeling and drug screening, both of which are currently hampered by short supply of stem cells.

"Importantly, these NSCs include all spinal cord NPC types (pd1-pMN progenitors) and can yield a broad range of identified spinal cord phenotypes (D11-motor neurons) together with cardinal glial cell types. The ability to create a diversity of spinal cord neuronal types could facilitate disease modeling and drug screening for several spinal cord disorders," the researchers wrote.

However, they also note that they hope to begin human trials for their neural stem cell treatment within 3-5 years. A relatively short amount of time to wait for what could be the next great step towards the holy grail of stem cell research into spinal cord injury recovery.


RegenerVate uses stem cell therapies and stem cell treatment derived from our patient's own stem cells to treat chronic pain and joint conditions like arthritis. Schedule an appointment at one of our clinics to learn if stem cell therapy is right for you.

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Treatment Options Stem Cell Research

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