Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recovering Movement In Chronic Spinal Cord Injury

The University of California, Irvine, has just completed the very first study to show that human stem cells can bring back movement in spinal cord injury, advocating the possibility of treatment for a more vast populace of patients.

Past breakthroughs in stem cell studies concentrated on the vital or beginning stage of spinal cord injury, a time span of up to a couple of weeks after the onset of the trauma when medications can bring about some mobile recovery.

The study directed by Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings from the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, is vital due to the fact the therapy can bring back movement during the later chronic stage, the time which is after spinal cord injury where inflammation has sustained and recovery has reached a stability level. Currently there are no medications to help bring back functioning in these cases.

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Potential Spinal Cord Injury Treatments

There have been several recent developments in the potential treatment of spinal cord injury. A group of researchers showed they were able to enhance the regeneration of nerve connections after spinal cord injury by deleting an enzyme called PTEN. The enzyme controls a molecular pathway called mTOR that is a key regulator of cell growth. During development, when nerve growth and connections occur, PTEN activity is low, allowing cell growth. When growth is completed, PTEN is turned on to inhibit cell growth. Controlled stimulation of cell growth is important for tissue regeneration. The scientists disabled PTEN in mice and were able to achieve nerve growth past a spinal cord lesion. The study published in Nature Neuroscience points to possible strategies to encourage a damaged spinal cord to sprout new neuron growth for repair.

A Japanese group has shown that transplanting neural stem cells along with a chemical stimulus can enhance formation of new neurons and reform neuronal circuits in mice with spinal cord injury. The chemical stimulant valproic acid steered the transplanted neural stem cells to form neurons, and stimulated reconstruction of broken neural connections, resulting in significant recovery of hind-limb movement for the mice. The work was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

A UC-Irvine team showed they were able to use neural stem cells to restore some motor function in mice with chronic spinal cord injury. Most studies have focused on acute injuries, attempting to initiate treatment soon after injury. This acute phase is what the Geron trial that endangers patients will focus on, since rat data has shown the embryonic stem cells have no effect on chronic injury. In the UC-Irvine study, mice were treated 30 days after spinal cord injury with fetal neural stem cells; three months later the mice showed statistical improvement in recovery of walking ability.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Hope after New Stem Cell Breakthrough

Patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries have been given new hope of a treatment, after scientists reported a breakthrough in the use of stem cells.

Researchers said they have discovered that stem cells taken from the brain could be used to restore movement to paralysed patients.

Experts said the breakthrough could pave the way for the creation of a spare set of matching cells, which could be used to "repair" such damage.

One of the most common causes of a disability in young adults, spinal damage can result from incidents ranging from car accidents and sport injuries to falls.

Each year more than 1,000 people in Britain suffer traumatic injuries to their neck or back leading to permanent paralysis. Currently, there is no proven treatment that can repair this damage.

In their study, the researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan, transplanted “neural stem cells” (NSCs) to mice with severe spinal cord injuries.

They then administered a drug known as valproic acid, which is used in the treatment of epilepsy.

The acid promoted the transplanted stem cells to generate nerve cells, rather than other brain cell types.

The team, reporting in the Journal of Clincal Investigation, concluded that the “combination therapy resulted in impressive restoration of hind limb function”.

Prof Kinichi Nakashima, who led the study, said the method could be developed as an effective treatment for severe spinal cord injuries, giving hope to paralysed patients.

“The body’s capacity to restore damaged neural networks in the injured… is severely limited,” he said.

“Although various treatment regimens can partially alleviate spinal cord injury, the mechanisms responsible for symptomatic improvement remain elusive.

“These findings raise the possibility that (stem cells)… can be manipulated to provide effective treatment for spinal cord injuries.”

But Tamir Ben-Hur, from Hadassah Hebrew University Medical School, Israel, said while the study showed “impressive” results, he cautioned that further work was needed “before it can be determined whether this approach will work in human patients”.

By Andrew Hough

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