Stem Cell Transplants Help Repair Spinal Cord Injuries in Rats
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The researchers also looked at the motor skills of transplanted rats vs. the
controls. One month after the surgery, the control rats were not able to move
their hind limbs in a coordinated fashion and the limbs could not support their
bodies. The hind limbs of the treated animals had regained some movement and
were able to partially support the weight of the rats' bodies.
"Their walking certainly wasn't normal," says McDonald. "But
this functional recovery was especially encouraging because the cells were
transplanted nine days after the spinal cord injury -- a time period that had
not yet been explored."
W. Dalton Dietrich, PhD, tells WebMD that he thinks the well done study
reports new data regarding strategies to promote recovery of function following
spinal cord injury in rats. Dietrich is the scientific director of the Miami
Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
"Strategies including stem cell transplantation may some day be used to
treat paralysis after spinal cord injury," says Dietrich, who was not
involved in the study. "The behavioral improvement seen with delayed
transplantation is extremely important from the clinical perspective. Whether
stem cells or other transplantation strategies represent the best strategy to
enhance recovery after spinal cord injury remains to be determined."
Dennis J. Maiman, MD, PhD, stresses that these results are preliminary.
While very exciting, he notes that there are still many problems that could
arise. Maiman is the medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the
Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
"The biggest issue of all may be that human motor behavior is more
complicated," says Maiman. "Even if cells grow, it does not mean they
will work. Also, in the real world, you often have to contend with blood,
scarring, and other problems that were not mimicked in this model."
- In a preliminary study, researchers have transplanted the embryonic stem
cells of mice into rats with spinal cord injuries.
- The transplanted cells did survive and grow, improving movement in the
- In humans, transplanting stem successfully does not guarantee the cells
will function normally.