Stem Cells Could Save Your Spine

Stem cells help undo effects of spinal injury in mice

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

(RxWiki News) Stem cells created by Athersys, Inc. have proved successful in stimulating nerve cell growth and reducing inflammation in mice after spinal cord injury.

There are over 1.2 million people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States and approximately 12,000 new cases occur each year. Recently, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Athersys®, Inc. collaborated on a study that showed the potential benefit of stem cells in people following spinal cord injury.

The MultiStem® program, which uses adult stem cells taken from bone marrow, is produced by Athersys®. The study showed that the stem cells produced by Athersys® and administered to rodents after spinal injury reduced inflammation and promoted new nerve cell growth. One of the biggest goals in spinal cord research is the growth of new nerve cells to replace the damaged nerve cells.

Spinal cord injuries can cost anywhere from half a million dollars to more than three million dollars per patient, depending on the seriousness of the injury sustained. The MultiStem® study shows "for the first time that an adult stem cell is capable of modifying multiple aspects of the wound response...and increasing the regenerative potential of the damaged neurons themselves," according to Jerry Silver, PhD.

The stem cells do this in a variety of ways. First, they reduce the amount of harmful proteins called MMP-9 that contribute to nerve damage. They also reduce inflammation at the site of the injury and help nerve cells grow.

Further studies will need to be done before this is tested in humans, but the research team is hopeful of the therapy's "broad potential."

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Review Date: 
January 20, 2011
Last Updated:
January 20, 2011