Stem cells returned mobility to paralyzed rats

Scientist from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology managed to restore mobility and sensitivity in the paralyzed hind legs and tail in rats with the help of human stem cells. A new study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, demonstrates the tremendous potential of stem cells in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

The tissue developed by researchers containing human stem cells has allowed rats with paraplegia (paralysis of the back of the trunk) to move and restored sensitivity in the limbs and tail and stimulated partial regeneration of the injured spinal cord.

Rupture of the spinal cord, as a rule, leads to paraplegia. To date, there is no effective technique that would ensure recovery after such a trauma.

A group of Israeli scientists under the leadership of Shulamit Levenberg implanted human oral mucosa stem cells (hOMSC) in a complete spinal cord transection rat model. After transplantation of hOMSC differentiated into glial cells, producing growth factors neurons.

The experiment consisted not only in the implantation of stem cells at various intervals along the spinal cord. The research team also created a three-dimensional scaffold providing an environment for attaching hOMSC, their growth and differentiation into neuroglia cells. Human thrombin and fibrinogen were added to the medium to stabilize and support neurons in the rat’s spinal cord. Stem cells were cultured for several days on the scaffold, and then the resulting tissue was transplanted into the experimental animals.

The rats treated with the artificial tissue containing stem cells showed much better results of restoring motor and sensory functions compared to control rats.

Three weeks after transplantation, 42% of the implanted paraplegic rats showed significant improvements: they could support weight on their hind limbs and walk, and 75% could respond to stimulation of the hind legs and tail 14 weeks after the procedure, while the control group failed to show any sensory response.

In addition, coordinated gait was observed in 5 out of 12 rats treated with underwent transplantation of artificial tissue. It has been shown that in animals after implantation damage in the spine decreased, indicating that the recovery of the spinal cord.

Despite the fact that the results of the study seem promising, this technique did not work for all implanted rats. The main challenge for further experiments will investigate why stem cell treatment was successful in some cases and useless in others.

As the research team notes, “This warrants further investigation to shed light on the mechanisms underlying the observed recovery, to enable improved efficacy and to define the intervention optimal for treatment of spinal cord injury.”

Despite the fact that the study does not solve the problem of the treatment of spinal cord injuries in humans, however, it specifies the path to the decision. “Although there is still some way to go before it can be applied in humans, this research gives hope.”- says Dr. Levenberg.