Scientists from Canada have found that spinal cord paralysis in rats can be eased / repaired by transplanting brain cells taken from the adult mouse. It may be possible to take brain cells from patients with spinal cord injuries and then transplanting them back into themselves as a treatment.
Earlier studies have shown improvement in paralyzed lab animals with transplanted embryonic stem cells. The new research is important because the cells were taken from adult animals rather then embryos. Also, the positive effects were produced even two weeks after the injury.
Of course these stem cells are not as versatile as embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can be used to repair more organs. But these brain cells appear to be effective in treating spinal cord injuries.
In the mice study, the transplanted cells formed a sheath around the nerve fibers. These sheaths resemble insulators around wires. Such sheaths are disrupted in spinal cord injury and restoring them produced the therapeutic effect in the rats.
The researchers found that mice treated eight weeks after the injury were not helped. This illustrates a hurdle in treating spinal cord patients long after their injury.
The report was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr Michael Fehlings, a neurosurgeon at the Krembil Neuroscience Center at Toronto Western Research Institute was the lead researcher.
Stem cells have shown promise in repairing heart attack damage as well, in an earlier study. John Hopkins researchers found that stem cells from human heart tissue develop into multicellular, spherical structures called cardiospheres that express the normal properties of primitive heart tissue, smooth muscle and blood vessel cells.
Eduardo Marbán, M.D. said “The findings could potentially offer patients use of their own stem cells to repair heart tissue soon after a heart attack, or to regenerate weakened muscle resulting from heart failure, perhaps averting the need for heart transplants.” Marban is professor and chief of cardiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. He added “using a patient’s own adult stem cells rather than a donor’s, there would be no risk of triggering an Immune Response that could cause rejection.” So there appears to be advantages in using the persons own stem cells to treat injuries.
By Dan Wilson