Stem cells can be acquired in many parts of the body. In a study, the stem cells that were harvested from an 86-year old man show a surprising ability to survive long enough to form long axons on the injured spin in laboratory rats.
The paper suggested that by using induced pluripotent stem cells that were reprogrammed from aging human skin cells, it has an inherent ability to overcome any inhibitory factors so that it could extend axons and form neurons.
A 2012 study produced the same results, showcasing that rat neuronal stem cells can also show the same signs of neuron and axon regrowth. It also pointed out that the generated axons extended long enough within the spines and brains of the rodents, thus restoring some form of movement to the limbs.
Philip Horner, a Neuroscientist, said that the studies presented provide substantial data on axon growth. However, the researchers did point out that the issue here is not that it won’t be effective, but it really begs the question: “how do you control cell growth?”
Stem Cell Therapy for Treating Spinal Cord Injuries
The use of stem cells in the treatment of spinal cord injuries is probably one of the most well-researched ideas in the field of regenerative medicine. Stem cells just hold a lot of promise since it has been shown that when neural stem cells are active, they can extend and create axons across lesions. They would then remyelinate the surrounding axons where partial injuries are present and it would help restore conductivity of the site as well.
If neural stem cells would do this, the researchers would have to make use of immune-suppressing drugs since NSCs would only initiate their effectiveness when given such conditions.
However, suppressing the subject or host’s immune system might pose a threat to the patients that are already suffering from spinal cord injuries.
Researchers Paul Lu and Mark Tuszynski of the University of California, aimed to circumvent this by using induced pluripotent stem cells instead. The iPSCs that were used were derived from the patient’s own skin. After coaxing it to differentiate, the cells would then be transplanted back into the person’s system.
The neural stem cells that were created using this process would be infused with fibrin matrix along with a bevy of growth factors. The cells would then be transplanted into the rats that have spinal cord damage.
After three months, the transplanted stem cells would start to turn into neural stem cells. In turn, it started to create axons that extend out of the lesion- across long distances. Ultimately, the axons reached the olfactory bulb and then the brain.
According to the authors of the study, the axons pretty much extended the entire length of the rodent’s neuraxis.
Although the NSCs created axons, the researchers discovered that it did not lead to the improvement nor the recovery of limb movements to the spinal cord damage.
Given enough time, further studies would finally be able to use NSCs derived from human stem cells to help repair spinal cord injuries.