Monday, September 17, 2012

Stem Cell Gel Heals Spinal Cord Injury

Posted on by SBrinkmann, Women of Grace
Researchers at the University of California/San Diego and VA San Diego Healthcare created a gel composed of neural stem cells that were able to regenerate “an astonishing degree” of growth at the site of severe spinal cord injury in rats.

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that the gel, which was made by embedding neural stem cells in a mixture of blood clotting protein and growth chemicals, proved able to regenerate broken spinal cord nerves when applied to the site of an injury. The stem cells basically rewired the central nervous system in the rats, restoring the ability of the brain and spinal cord to communicate, thus enabling the animals to regain some movement.
In rats with completely severed spinal cords, it produced an “astonishing degree” of nerve growth, researchers said. Rats that were previously paralyzed experienced “significant” functional improvement and were able to move all the joints in the affected legs.
“Using this method, after six weeks the number of axons (nerve fibres) emerging from the injury site exceeded by 200-fold what had ever been seen before,” said lead researcher Professor Mark Tuszynski, from the University of California at San Diego.
“The axons also grew ten times the length of axons in any previous study, and, importantly, the regeneration of these axons resulted in significant functional improvement.”
Similar results were obtained in the laboratory using adult stem cells taken from fat tissue. Scientists tagged the cells with a flourescent protein so that their growth could be observed and watched them quickly grow into neurons and then sprout axons.
“We obtained the exact results using human cells as we had in the rat cells,” said Tuszynski. “We are conducting experiments now to determine whether this can be translated to humans.”
This is promising news to the estimated 300,000 Americans who are fully or partially paralyzed.
The research appears in the September 14 issue of Cell.

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