In what could revolutionize the treatment of spinal injury, experts claim specific type of human stem cells may repair the damaged nerve membranes and restore the spinal cords’ ability to transmit signals to the brain.
After spinal cord injuries, many people become paralyzed because their brains are cut off from central pattern generators, which are networks of neurons in the spinal cord that are thought to produce an automatic walking motion.
US scientists found that human astrocyte cells, the major support cells in the central nervous system when transplanted in paralyzed rats were capable of not only repairing the damaged membranes but also helping them regain movement.
Lead author of the study, Chris Proschel, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Rochester stated, "We've shown in previous research that the right types of rat astrocytes are beneficial, but this study brings it up to the human level, which is a huge step.
"What's really striking is the robustness of the effect. Scientists have claimed repair of spinal cord injuries in rats before, but the benefits have been variable and rarely as strong as what we've seen with our transplants."