© University Health Network
Michael G. Fehlings, Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural precursor cells in cervical spinal cord injury

Funded in: 2014, 2015, 2016

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Problem: The use of stem cells as a potential therapy faces several difficulties besides their effectiveness.

Target: Assess the impact of human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neural precursor cells (hiPSC-NPCs), generated from skin cells in cervical SCI

Goal: Optimizing therapy with hiPSC-NPCells to move closer to clinical translation


The advancement of stem cell based therapies for SCI has been limited by several critical factors, including a lack of studies in the cervical (neck) region, logistical and ethical concerns related to the source of stem cells and not having a complete picture of how the cells work.  The project  addresses these critical gaps by transplanting stem cells, called human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neural precursor cells (hiPSC-NPCs), in small animal models of cervical SCI. Through the use of these cells, accessibility and ethical issues surrounding the source of neural precursor cells can be overcome, as they are essentially generated using skin cells. Moreover, hiPSC-NPCs hold the promise of being a patient-specific cellular therapy that avoids the need for immunosuppression, which could be necessary with other cell types. Based on promising data, it is   hypothesized that hiPSC-NPCs will induce significant repair and regeneration of the injured cervical spinal cord, resulting in improvements in functional outcome after injury. This grant proposal builds on previous promising results and addresses key knowledge gaps in the field – with the goal of optimizing stem cell therapies for cervical SCI and moving this therapy closer to clinical translation.