Stem cells enable paralysed rats to walk
Stem cells taken from mouse brains can repair damaged spinal tissue and help restore movement in paralysed rats, according to a new study.
The findings could eventually lead to new treatments for people paralysed after spinal cord injuries, according to scientists from the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at the Toronto Western Research Institute and the University of Toronto.
Their research, published on Wednesday in the US Journal of Neuroscience, identified a critical time window during which stem cell transplants may be effective.
A team used stem cells taken from the brains of adult mice and transplanted them into the crushed spines of rats.
The stem cells, which were transplanted within two weeks after the initial spine injury, survived with the help of immune-suppressing drugs developed by the team.
More than one-third of transplanted cells developed into the type of cells that had been originally destroyed in the spinal cord.
These cells began restoring an insulating layer around the nerve fibres which transmit signals from the brain. The destruction of this insulating layer, known as myelin, is what causes paralysis after spinal cord injuries.
In those cases where stem cell transplants successfully restored myelin in the injured spine, the lab rats showed signs of recovery from their injures and began walking with better coordination.