What can stem cells do for spinal cord injury?

Spine MRI

One of the major consequences of spinal cord injury is death of neurons after the injury and the inability of surviving neurons to regenerate and repair their connections. This secondary injury can continue for even years after the incident and much research has been focused on promoting regeneration.

A recent animal study evaluated the benefit of cord blood stem cells injected into the injured spinal area. Using genetic markers, the researchers discovered that these stem cells could slow the secondary death of neurons. Cord blood stem cells seem to act as a neuroprotective agent (by slowing neuron death) so that there might be greater chance at regenerating surviving neurons.

Animal studies usually only help to define future human studies. Therefore the use of stem cells for spinal cord injury still needs a good deal of research before becoming a therapeutic treatment for patients. However, studies such this one show potential neuroprotective and neuroregenerative results, and help define the future of spinal cord therapy.

Dasan VR, Veeravalli KK, Tsung AJ, et al. Neuronal apoptosis is inhibited by cord blood stem cells after spinal cord injury. Journal of Neurotrauma. (November 2009).