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Jefferson researchers find stem cells in degenerating spinal discs, potential for repair
Date:10/31/2007

hat while these cells were no longer functioning to repair the damaged disc, under appropriate conditions, they could be activated.

To explore that possibility, he isolated cells from discarded disc tissue that still had the capacity to proliferate. Dr. Risbud notes that under certain conditions, the cells could be encouraged to form bone. In other conditions, the cells would form cartilage or even fat. The tests proved that these cells were indeed dormant disc stem cells. If we are able to stimulate the silent cells in the patient, then it may be possible to repair the ravages of degenerative disc disease without undergoing invasive surgical procedures that may limit the motion of the spine, he says.

According to Dr. Risbud, in earlier work, the researchers found that local conditions in the disc can promote adult stem cells of the bone marrow to acquire characteristics of disc cells. Within the disc, the local conditions are unique in that the oxygen levels are low. These conditions cause the expression of many specialized molecules, including the water-binding proteoglycans. Some of the researchers current experiments focus on the use of adult stem cells to repair the degenerate intervertebral disc.

Shapiro notes that other researchers have taken bone marrow stem cells and have made new bone, cartilage and fat tissue. Our next step is to activate these disc stem cells and get them to repopulate the disc and make proteoglycans and restore the water-binding,

The scientists theorize that because the stem cells exist in the degenerate disk, there may be molecules that are blocking stem cell activity. Something is inhibiting the disc repair process, says Dr. Shapiro. Drs. Shapiro and Risbud agree that new studies are needed to discover the nature of such inhibitory molecules and to find ways to block their activities, promoting natural healing.


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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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