Regenerating the Spine

Cell discovery may lead to advancements in spinal cord injury treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Spinal cord injuries rarely heal fully, which can lead to permanent paralysis or  impairment. Lost function was believed to come from scar tissue. Research suggests there may be another explanation.

An unexpected cell is attributed to aiding in repair of the spinal cord.

After a central nervous system injury, neurons are lost and mostly replaced by scar tissue, often referred to as the glial scar because of the abundance of glial cells. Karolinska Institutet investigators have found that most scar cells in the damaged spinal cord are actually derived from a small group of cells along blood vessels and are not glial cells as once believed.

"Talk to your doctor about advancements in spinal cord injury treatment."

Karolinska Institutet professor Jonas Frisé and his team of researchers demonstrated that the majority of scar cells in the damaged spinal cord are from pericytes, a small group of cells along blood vessels. There are indications that the scars stabilize the tissue and prevents regrowth of damaged nerve fibers.

Research shows that pericytes begin dividing after an injury, allowing a mass of connective tissue cells to form a large portion of scar tissue. These cells are necessary to regain tissue integrity. When this reaction doesn't occur, holes appear in the tissue instead of scarring.

To restore function in patients with a spinal injury, scientists have long concentrated on understanding glial cell behavior. The new findings, however, make a point for further investigation into whether blood vessel cells can help an injury heal.

The findings were published in journal Science.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 10, 2011
Last Updated:
July 14, 2011