Neurons created from stem cells successfully regenerate corticospinal tissue in rats for the first time
The corticospinal tract facilitates voluntary movement - allowing signals from the brain to reach muscles across the body via motor neurons. Finding ways to repair any damage to this area is therefore essential to avoid and fix permanent paralysis.
"The corticospinal projection is the most important motor system in humans. It has not been successfully regenerated before. Many have tried, many have failed—including us, in previous efforts"
The idea of treating spinal injury with stem cells isn't new, but many previous efforts have been unsuccessful. This new approach by a team of scientists used neural progenitor stem cells, which are multipotent cells able to become a variety of neural cell types. They also specifically coaxed these cells to become spinal tissue, enabling them to create new synapse connections to regenerate nerve activity.
"We humans use corticospinal axons for voluntary movement. In the absence of regeneration of this system in previous studies, I was doubtful that most therapies taken to humans would improve function. Now that we can regenerate the most important motor system for humans, I think that the potential for translation is more promising"
Some previous studies have demonstrated repair of other spinal regions, but this is the first time regeneration of corticospinal axons has been shown. While the cell type required for human use still needs to be determined (and whether we can accomplish the same thing at all), these are extremely encouraging proof of concept results.
Read more at MedicalXpress