New hPSC-derived Spinal Cord Neural Stem Cells Show Vast Promise

Published Date : Aug 08, 2018

A team of researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine has successfully developed spinal cord neural stem cells (NSCs) from self-replicating cells derived from human fetal tissue, called the human pluripotent stem cells; the cells are capable of differentiating into a number of cells capable of spreading through the spinal cord and can remain active for long durations.

The successful end to the research study, published in the online issue of the journal Nature Methods, means that several advancements can be brought in basic research such as better understanding regarding the uses of biomedical approaches for in-vitro disease modeling and could help expedite the process of developing better and clinically usable cells for replacement treatments related to spinal cord diseases and injuries.

In the past few years, there has been a vast rise in research activities aimed at understanding the use of stem cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells for developing new spinal cord cells required for repairing diseased or damaged spinal cords. Advancements in the field have been steady but have also been limited and slow. However, results of the new study pump hope into significantly advancing the cause.

In rat models, researchers observed that post grafting the NSCs into the damaged spinal cords, the grafts enabled healthy regeneration of the corticospinal tract (CST), extended axons in large numbers over long distances, the grafts had excitatory neurons in large quantities, and supplied nerves to the target structures. The regeneration of neural progenitor cells, especially corticospinal axons, triggered by the hPSC-derived NSCs has vast promise for treating spinal cord conditions in humans as corticospinal axons play a critical role in human motor functions.

While more work needs to be done on the cells, the researchers estimate that the cells will be used as source cells for clinical trials for humans after a period of three to five years. Further research is also required for the determination of the safety of these cells over long durations in mice and other non-human studies and whether the efficacy can be replicated.