Researchers at Kazan University have inserted a combination of two genes into umbilical cord blood cells to stimulate neuron survivability and axon growth.
The resulting construction has been transplanted to rats with spinal cord injuries with great therapeutic effect – ranging from the improvement of motoric activity to the regeneration of nerve fibers.
The research was published in the latest issue of PLoSOne on March 22nd, 2016.
Yana Mukhamedshina, Research Consultant of the Genetic and Cell Technologies Virtual Open Lab, explains the mechanisms, “It’s important that none of the rodents developed a large posttraumatic cavity in the injured area – which is usually the case with mechanical trauma. The injured nerve tissue was filled with regenerating nerve fibers (neuronal outgrowth) and transplanted stem cells”.
Spinal cord injuries are widely publicized medical issues. There is still no effective therapy, and many people lose employability and suffer from significant impediments to their social functioning because of such traumas.
Our hope in this area is now vested in researchers of stem cells and genetic engineers. Most groups consider stem and progenitor cells to be the most promising because of having trophic factors that have a positive influence on neuron survivability.
Ms. Mukhamedshina continues, ”The problem is very pertinent because most patients with spinal cord injuries become disabled. The latest global research experience shows that preclinical trials with stem cells on mice and rats are extremely inspiring with regards to the recovery of structure and functions of tissues, including injured spinal cords. However, the transfer to clinical practice is rather slow because of reservations about safety and effectiveness for humans”.
That’s why the next step is testing on large animals – primates and pigs. If the results here are equally positive, the hopes for prospective treatment of human patients will be very high.