Stem Cell Implants Could Improve Our Grip After Spinal Cord Injury

There are special kinds of cells known as stem cells that have the ability to turn to whatever cell that is required by our bodies.

There is a study that used human neural stem cell implants and they are transplanted into the body of monkeys who are suffering from an injured spine.

Apparently, the stem cells matured and differentiated into nerve cells, which kickstarted the creation of neuronal connections, thus giving the affected animals the ability to take and grasp the orange.

According to Jonathan Glass, a neurologist at Emory University School of Medicine, this type of cellular therapy, although still in its early stages, could provide a medical approach to treating problems with our central nervous systems and damage that are done to our brains as a result of neurodegenerative diseases.

He also added that the transformation of the stem cells given a short period of time was nothing short of impressive and as such, it could potentially lead to a cure for us humans in terms of treating spinal cord injuries. However, despite promising findings, it would still require further research to ensure that it can be 100% replicated and the results are finite and quantifiable to a considerable degree.

This is a huge step in stem cell transplants given that most of the experiments of this kind were only administered to rats. It looks promising given that we have a close genetic makeup to that of the primates, which is why this may lead to a true cure to spinal cord injuries without too invasive therapies.

The Study

Mark Tuszynski, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, one of the co-authors of the study, said that he and his colleagues are confident in making subsequent studies and they are not afraid to do this on real human subjects.

The study involved Rhesus Monkeys who had spinal cord injuries. Mark and his team cut into a section of the spinal cord and after two weeks, they’ve transplanted a graft of human neural progenitor cells on the damaged area.

The first four monkeys’ grafts didn’t stay in position, which prompted Mark’s team to add more fibrinogen-thrombin, a protein enzyme that is responsible for the quicker assimilation of the graft to the affected site. In addition, the researchers would also have to tilt the operating table to the side to help drain the excess cerebral spinal fluid which would also push the graft out.

After the appropriate measures were done, they’ve observed that the graft stayed in place and after a couple of days, the transplanted cells transformed into glia and neurons.

At the site of the transplant, the human neurons were able to produce more than 150,000 threadlike axons that even extended up to 50 mm away from the graft. Two months after the procedure, Mark and his team found that the new cells were able to make neural connections with the nerve cells in the monkey’s body.

The monkeys were then able to grasp an orange and would continually improve as time progresses. This study has made remarkable findings that could one day help us create a cure for spinal cord injuries.