Researchers Discover New Type Of Spinal Cord Stem Cell

A team of researchers may have found a potential treatment approach using stem cells for conditions that affect the spinal cord or the central nervous system. They have discovered a type of spinal cord cell that can function as a stem cell. This can be sued to help regenerate damaged portions of the spinal cord or the central nervous system as seen in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease as well as a number of spinal cord injuries.

Stem cells are known to have the function of dividing and developing into more specialized type of cells, especialy during the early stage of growth and development. They can also help replenish cells that have either been damaged or lessened by other conditions and diseases. It is for this function that scientists believe stem cells can be used as a means to replace injured or damaged tissues and even organs.

Radial glial cells are known to be type of cells that are intrumental in the development of the brain and the spinal cord, especially in the embryonic phase of growth in an organism. Radial glia, which are known for their long projections can easily forge through brain tissue and is known to outnumber other potential stem cells in the spinal cord. But such cells have never been found in an adult spinal cord, up until now.

Jane Roskams, a professor at the Dept. Of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, conducted a search for spinal stem cells deep into the spinal cord. She broadened the search by using genetic profiles of the nervous stem cells previously developed by the researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. Roskams, in collaboration with researchers from the Allen Institute, McGill University and Yale University, have found potential radial glial cells along the outside edge of the spinal cords of mice.

According to Roskams and her team of researchers, the radial glial cells that they discovered also share a unique set of genes that can also be found in other neural stem cells. When such cells become mutated, they can lead to several human diseases, with some that may target the central nervous system. This discovery can lead to new potential gene therapy treatments that aim to replace mutated or dysfunctional spinal cord cells with healtheir varieties that can be produced by the radial glial cells.

“These long strands of radial glial cells amount to a potentially promising repair network that is perfectly situated to help people recover from spinal cord injuries or spinal disorders,” Roskams said. “For some reason, they aren’t re-activated very effectively in adulthood. The key is to find a way of stimulating them so they reprise their role of generating new neural cells when needed,” she further added.

Source: Medical News Today

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