Feb. 26, 2010
An international team of scientists has used modified adult stem cells to repair the spinal cord in rats, restoring function. In spinal cord injury, the protective insulating sheath around the spinal cord is destroyed, a process called demyelination. Without the normal insulation, spinal cord nerves can't send electrical impulses. The scientists isolated adult spinal cord stem cells, then modified them to produce the protein ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), a growth factor that stimulates cell survival and nerve growth. The results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed recovered signaling in spinal cords of the treated rats and enhanced recovery of hindlimb movement. The authors conclude that using modified adult stem cells can enhance remyelination and facilitate functional recovery after traumatic spinal cord injury. Patients have already been treated with similar nasal adult stem cells. The authors of this current study note that besides confirming previous results with adult stem cells, these results indicate that optimal recovery will include grafts with additional stimulation such as the added growth factor they used.