A New Stem Cell Treatment Could Change the Lives of Spinal Injury Victims

New developments in stem cell therapy hold promise for spinal cord injury patients. Recent research a new method for delivering neural precursor cells to spinal cord injuries in rats, reducing the risk of further injury and boosting the propagation of potentially reparative cells.

The research was led by physician-scientists at University of California San Diego School of Medicine. The team recently published their findings in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

As Science Daily reports:

“NSCs (neural precursor cells) hold great potential for treating a variety of neurodegenerative diseases and injuries to the spinal cord. The stem cells possess the ability to differentiate into multiple types of neural cell, depending upon their environment. As a result, there is great interest and much effort to use these cells to repair spinal cord injuries and effectively restore related functions.”

A Stem Cell Injection Method with Fewer Potential Risks

Current delivery methods involve direct needle injection into the spinal parenchyma — the primary cord of nerve fibers running through the vertebral column. “As such, there is an inherent risk of (further) spinal tissue injury or intraparenchymal bleeding,” Martin Marsala, MD, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine told Science Daily.

The new injection method takes a less invasive approach by depositing injected cells into the spinal subpial space — a space between the pial membrane and the superficial layers of the spinal cord.

“This injection technique allows the delivery of high cell numbers from a single injection,” said Marsala. “Cells with proliferative properties, such as glial progenitors, then migrate into the spinal parenchyma and populate over time in multiple spinal segments as well as the brain stem. Injected cells acquire the functional properties consistent with surrounding host cells.”

Improved Treatment Expected

The team suspects that subpial-injected cells are likely to accelerate and improve treatment potency in cell-replacement therapies for several spinal neurodegenerative disorders in which a broad repopulation by glial cells, such as oligodendrocytes or astrocytes, is desired.

“This may include spinal traumatic injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis,” added senior author Joseph Ciacci, MD, a neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health.

Stem Cell Doctors & Researchers Next Steps

Next, the researchers will test the process on larger preclinical animal models of spinal traumatic injury that more closely mimic human anatomy and size.

“The goal is to define the optimal cell dosing and timing of cell delivery after spinal injury, which is associated with the best treatment effect,” said Marsala.

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