Human Stem Cells Return Motor Function to Paralyzed Rats

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego report that experimental rats recovered from blood flow related paralysis after receiving grafts of human spinal stem cells. When damage occurs due to loss of blood flow to the spine's neural cells, applying human neural stem cells directly to the spinal cord achieves recovery of motor function. In this specific type of paralysis, known as spinal cord ischemia, there is no mechanical damage to the spinal cord. The brain motor centers remain partially connected to the spinal cord but the loss of inhibitory neurons leads to the degeneration of muscle control in lower limbs.

The study examined nine of sixteen rats injected with human spinal stem cells 21 days after becoming paralyzed. The other seven representing the control group were injected with placebo containing no stem cells. The recovery process was evaluated in seven day intervals, displaying a progressive recovery of motor functions in the rats that received stem cells.

Three of the nine rats resumed walking within six weeks and the other three had improved mobility in lower extremities. In all rats grafted with human stem cells, the majority of these cells survived and became mature neurons. Researchers believe that this therapy may become effective with human patients in conjunction with physical therapy, which may accelerate the integration of grafted stem cells.


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