The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has been working on stem cell treatments for injuries to the central nervous system. This particular treatment utilizes the application of autologous stem cells that produce the myelin sheath around neurons. Injuries to the spinal cord result in scar tissue and cavity formation at the site of injury. Given that scar tissue formation hinders signals from being transmitted to the limbs, which then become paralyzed, this treatment has been shown to create a bridge that allows the signal to be transmitted and partially restore limb function in animal subjects.
Medical researchers from Keele University and Nottingham University have integrated remote controlled magnetic nanoparticles to incite the differentiation of stem cells into new bone tissue for the treatment of bone diseases, disorders, and injuries. In pre-clinical trials, the nanoparticles were coated with proteins that stimulate the stem cells, and then delivered directly to the damaged tissue via an external magnetic field.
Complex chemical polymers are currently being developed by scientists at Stanford University to protect and support the proliferation of stem cells during spinal cord transplantation procedures. The gels are designed to provide padding for the cells during injection, while also varying in viscosity and the biochemical signals contained within to offer stem cells an optimal environment for differentiation.
Professor Linda Greensmith and her team of researchers from University College London and King’s College London have utilized stem cells to return muscle function to patients paralyzed by nerve damage or spinal cord injury. In a paralyzed animal model, the scientists observed transplanted stem cells growing along the injured neurons to restore motor capability to disabled muscle. Blue light pulses were then used to control the newly restored muscle movement.
A team of researchers at the University of Illinois led by doctors Fei Wang, Qiuhao Qu, and JianJun Cheng, have developed a fast and efficient technique for differentiating stem cells into motor neurons. The researchers added critical signaling molecules and growth factors to the cells much earlier than previous methods, resulting in twice the amount of neurons derived from the cells in half the time.
In a recent Phase II clinical study, researchers report that mesenchymal stem cells were successful in relieving chronic lower back pain. The scientists injected MSCs directly into the degenerating vertebral disks of patients suffering from lower back pain, resulting in an overall reduction in the mean pain score, improved function for at least 12 months, and a reduced need for further surgical and non-surgical treatment interventions.
A medical team from the University of Calgary is now recruiting candidates to participate in the phase one clinical trial for a new stem cell therapy that aims to treat spinal cord injuries. The researchers plan to inject stem cells into the spinal cord two sites above and two sites below the point of injury to recreate lost or damaged tissue.
Dr. Peter Donovan, Dr. Hans Keirstead, Dr. Aileen Anderson, Dr. Brian Cummings, Dr. Frank LaFerla, Dr. Leslie M. Thompson, and Dr. Matthew Blurton-Jones of UC Irvine discuss the importance of stem cells and the current research taking place within their labs.