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Stem cell research restores mobility in rats with spinal injuries

29th May 2013

A study published by an international team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has produced promising results for homelift and stairlift users who have acute spinal cord injuries.

The team have successfully improved the mobility of rats that have difficulty moving due to spinal cord injuries, and have also regenerated parts of the nervous systems of the animals. The findings were published in the May 2013 issue of Stem Cell Research & Therapy and a summary of the study can be read here.

The team included members of the San Diego School of Medicine and colleagues in the Netherlands, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Professor Joseph Ciacci, co-author of the study and professor of surgery at the San Diego School of Medicine, described the findings as "exciting" as there has been "very little to offer patients with acute spinal cord injury" before now.

Rats with spinal injuries had their injury sites grafted with neural stem cells that were taken from a human fetal spinal cord, and the results of the experiment saw the rats benefit in a number of ways. The positioning and control of the rats' paws was significantly improved during walking tests, and muscle spasticity was suppressed more often. According to Professor Martin Marsala, co-author of the study, one of the most promising results of the study was that cavities caused by injury to the spine were completely filled by grafted cells; no cavities or cysts that can form around spinal injuries were found.

The treatment was administered to the rats three days after injury to the spinal cord, and the test subjects were also given drugs that suppress any immune system response to the foreign stem cells. These grafted cells appear to do two things according to the researchers: partially replace the function of lost neurons and stimulate host neuron regeneration. This encourages nerve fibres to sprout and restores connectivity between elements involved in motor and sensory processing, easing mobility difficulties.

The next step of their investigation is to test out this treatment on patients who have had a spinal cord injury within the last two years and have little or no mobility or sensory function below the site of the injury. This treatment is moving forward swiftly and could be widely available within the next couple of years, which is great news for all those who struggle to use walk in baths and showers due to having spinal injuries.

Image Credit: stevendepolo (

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.