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Stem Cell Technology Gives Hope in Spinal Cord Injuries

spinal cord injuries that could inhibit scarring while encouraging nerve growth at the same time.

For this purpose a specific type of astrocyte support cell was generated from the GRPs, discovered by cell biologist Margot Mayer-Proschel of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

It was observed that rats given this specialized astrocyte cell showed less scar tissue and nerve damage in contrast to the control group, which was transplanted with un-cultured cells. Amazingly their locomotion improved to such an extent that they could walk completely normally within two weeks of the treatment

In addition it was observed that the brains of these rats also demonstrated improvement. This was unusual because degeneration of neurons often occurs with spinal cord injuries due to the degeneration of their nerve fibers running down the spinal cord. However with the astrocyte transplant up to 80 percent of nerve degeneration was suppressed.

Dr. Wise Young, a neuroscientist and director of Rutgers University`s W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience has been a pioneer in treating spinal-cord injury. He has organized clinical trials in China, where the influence of umbilical-cord blood stem cells in the central nervous system is planned.

According to Young 'The paper shows very compelling data for moving GRPs to clinical trial as soon as compatible human cells can be obtained.’

However Davies points out that the lack of availability of stem-cell lines in the United States was a big hurdle to be crossed as hundreds of thousands of the GRP cells would be required to act in a person.

Young still remains optimistic that the day was not too far when scientists would be able to make any cell into a stem cell.

In the future Davies hopes to use the new technology to repair central nervous system injuries in people, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.


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