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Thread: McMaster scientists regenerate spinal cord - Revolutionary new technique uses intestinal cells

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Jul 2001

    McMaster scientists regenerate spinal cord - Revolutionary new technique uses intestinal cells

    Aug. 15, 2001. 09:25 AM

    McMaster scientists regenerate spinal cord
    Revolutionary new technique uses intestinal cells

    HAMILTON (CP) - Scientists at McMaster University say they have achieved a major advance in spinal cord research, giving renewed hope for an eventual cure to Canada's 36,000 paraplegics and quadriplegics.

    Researchers have found that spinal nerves can successfully regenerate when intestinal cells are transplanted into a severed spinal cord.

    "This means there is a method here for regenerating fibres through the central nervous system with a relatively innocuous technique," said lead researcher Dr. Michel Rathbone.

    So far, they have had a 100 per cent success rate in experiments with animals.

    In experiments with rats, Rathbone's laboratory extracted cells called "enteric glia cells" from the gut, purified it, and injected it into sensory nerves going into the spinal cord, which had been surgically cut.

    "We were able to regenerate the fibres in the spinal cord," said Rathbone, a professor of medicine in the faculty of health sciences.

    "This is quite different from putting something around (the fibres) or just helping the few that remain."

    "These are regenerating fibres growing into the spinal cord."

    Rathbone said there are many advantages to harvesting enteric glia cells from the nervous system of a person's own intestines or gut.

    There is no fear of rejection because transplanted cells come from the same person. As well, these are mature cells, which gets around the thorny moral issue surrounding stem cells, which are harvested from embryos.

    Glia cells do a number of things, from controlling interconnections between nerve cells to covering axons, the nerve cell process that carries an impulse away from the cell to a muscle.

    Rathbone and his research team will publish their results in November at meetings for the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Cali.

    The Canadian Spinal Research Organization, a group made up of paraplegics and quadriplegics whose sole goal is to find a cure for spinal injuries, has provided more than $1 million in funding support to Rathbone's laboratory at McMaster over the past eight years.

    Rathbone anticipates the lab will be working with larger animals, such as dogs, in a couple of years.

    "Then, we can move fairly quickly to human studies. That could be another two or three years."

    Hamilton Spectator

  2. #2
    Senior Member mikek's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Pompano Bch.,Fl. 33060

    why so long then?

    Why will it take a few years to get to dog testing if it is so successful presently?

    The good news is Canada is closer than Taiwan or Russia for us Americans.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2001
    Great News!!
    I really like the sentence "So far, they have had a 100 per cent success rate in experiments with animals"
    Disappointing part is it still needs another two or three years. Are we going to get some better news from Taiwan, Russia, or from Dr Kao before Canadian start it?
    But 2~3 years are a lot better than our old magic 5~10 years....

  4. #4
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    toronto, canada

    Not 2-3 years away

    The article clearly said a "couple" of years until dogs and then 2-3 years until humans. That means 5 years.

    When I spoke to Dr. Rathbone approx 1 year ago they expected human trials in the "not too distant future".

    There's no doubt all kinds of exciting therapies are coming... but it's as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow.

  5. #5
    Senior Member kilgore's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Madison, WI USA


    actually, I read it as:
    A couple of years until we work with dogs,
    A couple of years working with dogs, and
    2-3 years until they're working with humans
    So it might be the 5-10 years anyway.

    The important thing here is that scientists all over the world are developing diverse ways to solve the problem. Maybe this will speed up the process by encouraging competition (or collaboration on combination therapies). I just feel better knowing that no one road block (like legislation against stem cells) will stop all progress.

  6. #6

    skin cells instead?

    Please forgive me it has been several years since I have had any class that dealt with embryonics. I have a question. I see the reasoning of this as procedure as it relates to early cell development, but I am wondering why intestinal cells and not skin cells? A embryo has two germ layers the endoderm and the ectoderm. It is my understanding that the ectoderm gives rise to the nervous system and the epithelium of the body surface. The endoderm is where the digestive tract arises. Why would you choose the digestive tract cells over the cells which they are more closely related, or are they?
    Is what Dr Young doing with olfactory ensheathing glia cells more like the skin idea than
    the enteric glia cells?
    I found this article this morning while looking this up. Maybe I should have posted it as a
    new post, it did seemed to tie to the question I had. Shouldn't skin cells should be better
    than enteric glia cells?

  7. #7
    Enteric glia have long been speculated to have a role in regeneration... There are several advantages to such cells. First, they are readily available from everybody, as autografts. We have over 22 feet of gut and we all should be able to spare a foot or two. Second, they may act like olfactory ensheathing glia in that they specialize in helping axons regenerate. Third, being differentiated cells, they are unlikely to grow out of control. I am looking forward to reading the paper to find out what these cells look like, whether or not they migrate in the spinal cord, and the extent of regeneration that they saw. Unfortunately, the news article does not give enough details to judge.

    By the way, most scientists don't have a crystal ball and they always say longer periods of time for development because they are used to the traditional model where it takes over 10 years for a therapy to go from discovery to market. They are also thinking purely in terms of their own laboratories and not in terms of many laboratories working together to help speed the research.


  8. #8
    Junior Member
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    Aug 2001

    Hello Russia, Taiwan, Ecuador etc.....

    So any researchers in any of the above countries fancy taking this one on and speeding things up significantly??

    Dr Young, I maybe being a little naive here but why go to dogs, why not go straight to primate studies, lowering the time to human trials?
    Naive point 2, as the cells are from our own bodies and the safety & efficency of no new drug is being tested, why the delay in getting this two humans?

    Many thanks

  9. #9

    I wonder why

    Sensory nerves going into the spinal cord which had been surgically cut.

    Has anyone here had their spinal cord surgically cut?

    Why not the drop weight method?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jeff's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Argao, Cebu, Philippines

    Good point, tvot

    The therapy might not work as well on a contusion injury. That's why I'm banking on the 10% rule. 10% will give me significant functional return. But you're right. A more realistic injury model should be used. Maybe they needed good results up front to jumpstart their work.

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