According to the study presented in Nature Medicine, functional tissue has been developed in the spines of rats by making use of stem cell therapy.
Stem cells form the foundation of regenerative medicine. Regeneration is when body tissue develops back after damage. Skin, for example, replaces itself, and the liver can grow back in a human adult.
The Center for Regenerative Medicine explain stem cells as cells that consistently divide and develop exact copies of themselves; they can also modify into specialized cells. This is known as differentiation.
Euro Stem Cell describes that omnipotent stem cells generate all the tissues that a body requires, but not all stem cells are omnipotent; there are various types of stem cells with distinct approaches for regeneration.
Researchers have been searching for approaches to direct stem cells to substitute functional cells impaired through trauma or by other problems, and the search is on to identify the right type of stem cell.
The human corticospinal tract provides lots of nerves from the cerebral cortex in the upper brain down into the spinal cord.
Successful re-growth of corticospinal axons
Earlier studies using stem cells have lead to degrees of functional recovery in rats after spinal cord injury, but none of the research engaged regeneration of corticospinal axons. Humans require corticospinal axons to perform voluntary movement.
It was not believed that corticospinal neurons would have the inner mechanisms required to allow for regeneration.
Investigators at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, with colleagues in Japan and Wisconsin, worked cohesively to analyze the practicality of using corticospinal neurons for this reason.
They grafted multipotent neural progenitor cells into the injury sites of rats with spinal cord injury. Multipotent cells are stem cells that can replenish into various kinds of cell.
The team directed the cells to grow particularly as a spinal cord. The cells developed more efficiently than the authors anticipated, replacing lost tissue and developing functional synapses that allowed the rats to move their forelimbs over they could before.
Senior research author Dr. Mark Tuszynski, says:
“The corticospinal projection is the very significant motor system in human beings. It has not been efficiently regenerated before. Many have attempted, many have been unsuccessful, which includes us, in earlier efforts.”
Still a long way to go.
Dr. Tuszynski states that this was the first time for the team to use neural stem cells to identify out whether they would support re-growth, where other cell types had not.
He had been skeptical that treatments could be designed to enhance function in humans, but the probability of regenerating “the most significant motor system for humans,” now appears to be more likely.
There is even now a long way to go prior to stem cell therapies can be examined in humans or used in therapy.
The initial step is to conduct animal studies that show that such therapies can be used safely and with long-term functional benefit.
Then, says Dr. Tuszynski, researchers will need to use larger animal models to build ways to transfer the technology to human beings. They will also have to identify which is the most effective kind of human neural stem cell to use.