Finding may lead to new therapy for nervous system disorders

Stem cells obtained from adult nasal passages can be transformed into nerve cells that restore mobility and function to rats with spinal cord injuries, a University of Louisville study has shown.

Researchers have stimulated these cells to become neurons, interact with muscles and make dopamine, a chemical that helps carry electrical signals within the nervous system, said Fred Roisen, a neuroscientist who led the research.

Results of the study were reported today in the journal Stem Cells.

The discovery is significant because it could lead to a new way to use a person’s own cells to treat spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other nerve disorders, Roisen said.

In the study, researchers took stem cells from adults undergoing elective nasal sinus surgery and used certain compounds to coax the cells into becoming neurons that attached to muscle tissue under laboratory conditions. The team also has shown that the newly-created cells can produce Myelin, a protective coating that insulates the nervous system much like the coating on an electrical cord.

“We are extremely enthusiastic about these results,” Roisen said. “They show that it may be possible in the future to take stem cells from a person’s nose and use them to regenerate damaged nerve tissue in the same person.”

Since patients undergoing that procedure would receive their own cells, they would not need to take anti-rejection drugs and could avoid other complications often associated with using cell-based treatments for disease, he added.

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