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Stem Cell Technology Gives Hope in Spinal Cord Injuries

Recent research using stem-cell technology in rats with spinal-cord injuries has allowed them to walk again within two weeks//. The results of the study show promise for people with traumatic spinal-cord injuries.

According to lead author Dr. Stephen Davies, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston the rats were given immature immune system support cells called astrocytes and this resulted in a 40-percent rise in nerve-fiber growth at the site of the injury in only eight days.

The results of the research is published in the April 26 in the open-access Journal of Biology. The Christopher Reeve Foundation has partly funded this research.

Stem cell technology for the repair of the central nervous system in humans has been the focus of several studies over many years. This study has shown advances in the use of that technology. Stem cells have the ability to respond to signals in tissue to become cells of that particular type of tissue.

Stem cells can be either of adult or embryonic origin. Adult stem cells are derived from the body’s tissue or organs whereas embryonic stem cells are derived from eggs fertilized in vitro.

Davies explains that the body normally creates scar tissue to prevent infection during any injury including a spinal cord injury. However this mechanism can have disastrous consequences on the spinal cord because scars inhibit nerve-fiber regeneration thereby leading to paralysis and other problems.

And for this very reason transplanting adult stem cells into an injured spinal cord does not encourage nerve growth. .

This led the Davies team to think of signaling cells similar to stem cells known as the glial-restricted precursors, or GRPs, to become a particular type of embryonic astrocyte which was considered to have a remarkable ability of repairing embryonic spinal cord. This in turn was considered for transplantation into adult
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