Promising strategy for chronic spinal injuries
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Therapy for chronic patients is a special challenge because the human body responds to a spinal cord injury with cell death, cysts and scarring. Now scientists from Canada found a promising therapy.
Although most patients have a chronic injury, unfortunately fewer studies focus on it. Many nerve cells remain intact at the site of damage. However, they lose their insulating layer of myelin and are thus functionally unusable. Cell therapies such as the introduction of stem cells in the present work can in principle restore the lost myelin. Still, they are hindered by the unfavorable environmental conditions of the scar tissue.
Scientists around Dr. Michael G. Fehlings from Toronto, Canada, found now a way to promote the recovery of the myelin sheath in chronic injuries. In an experimental model, they used a carrier (hydrogel) to introduce a special enzyme called chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) to alter the toxic environment. One week later, they added special human stem cells, called oNPCs, which predominantly evolved into myelin-forming cells and repaired the damaged myelin layer of neurons.
The exciting result: the damaged myelin sheath was repaired and motor functions were successfully restored. “This combination therapy is a promising strategy for the recovery of the chronically injured spinal cord,” says Fehlings.
The present study is a first possible step towards clinical application. It was published in the journal "Stem Cell Reports".