Combined cellular and pharmacological approaches to restore circuit connectivity
Funded in: 2022, 2023, 2024
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Problem: Stem cell grafts cannot survive long enough to generate new tissue
Target: Understand why neural stem cells die after transplantation
Goal: Optimized strategies and a new combinatorial treatment
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a main cause of permanent disabilities in young adults. Functional impairments after SCI are substantially attributed to the progressive degeneration of spinal cord cells. To date, minimal treatment options are available for SCI to replace damaged cells in the injured spinal cord. Transplantation of neural stem cells is a promising repair strategy for SCI as these cells are able to generate all the cell types and tissue of the spinal cord.
Research by this group and others show that neural stem cell therapy offers tremendous potential for SCI repair. In fact, neural stem cell transplantation has moved to clinical trials in recent years. Initial outcomes of these trials indicate that while stem cells are safe for SCI patients, their benefit for improving disabilities is only modest. One major challenge is that these stem cell grafts cannot survive long enough in the spinal cord to generate new tissue. Hence, it is essential to understand why neural stem cells die after transplantation and develop new treatments to harness their potential for repairing SCI. This research team has designed a new combinatorial treatment that has shown promise to potentiate the effects of neural stem cells.
In this project, the scientists will continue to optimize this therapy and evaluate the contribution of neural stem cell grafts to repairing the damaged spinal cord and recovery after SCI. If shown to be effective, the researchers hope that in near future this optimized strategy would enhance the outcomes of neural stem cell therapies for people with SCI and aid in improving the quality of life in these individuals.