Sue is introducing our buddy David Zach, father of three, u2fp board member, and c5-injured rock star advocate.

David introduces Phil Horner, who's making his first appearance at w2w.

Horner is youngish and wearing a dark suit with purple shirt . . . shows us a slide of the space needle (home!) now a pic of his daughter on her first day of first grade, beaming.

He says he feels like her -- wild with excitement and also knowing that it's only first grade, the state of his lab.

sc stem cells are active throughout life
endogenous stem cells contribute to sc repair
transplanted stem cells improve function following acute injury
how do we recreate the post-injury period of repair in the chronic condition?

Brain cells are replaced in select areas of the brain; but that declines a lot as you get older. This means that your own brain is plastic, in the sense that it's changeable and capable of growth.

In the last 10 years, it's also been learned that spinal cord cells are replaced throughout life. Your cord does NOT create neurons, but it does create glia ("glue" cells) -- glia are involved in plasticity and in making connections. This is good news. As you get old, the pace at which glial cells replace themselves gets faster -- the opposite of what happens to neurons in the brain. We all lose myelin as we age, but our glial cells are replacing it.

So, damn. Why don't these cells replace axons. There are some organizations that regenerate things super well. Pic of a starfish, which can regenerate a whole arm . . . also an arm can grow into a whole new body.

Salamanders can regenerate limbs . . . you can take a limb bud and stick it on the salamander's head, and it will grow that limb out of the head.

They also regenerate their spinal cords, right from the get go.

What happens in mammals? Our injured cords generate glia almost exclusively . . . we don't make neurons. Some of the glia are helpful b/c they make myelin, some are life-sparing but they mess with return of function.

Repair can be done. It's most likely an engineering problem at this point.

Stem cells replace glia after sci . .. especially when injected early after injury. Chronic injuries don't benefit as much as we need them to.

Sam Nutt is a researcher who's working on "the magic brew" induced pluripotent stem cells. (known as iPS cells). What they did was figure out which genes make an embryonic stem cell what it is. The genes are already there, but they're "turned off" -- if you could turn 'em back on, you could put them into an adult skin cell and reprogram it to turn it into an embryonic stem cell.

Your adult skin cell can be turned into one of the stem cells that made you in the beginning. That stem cell can then be induced to become other kinds of cells, including cells from the nervous system. It takes 9 days to take cells that were skin cells and turn them into cells with properties of neurons.

Sam . . . Sam could be our new best friend. Sam has been working on turning those iPS-created cells into the right kinds of neural glia. They have to look at thousands of genes and make sure they're switched on and off in exactly the right combination.

Now have a phase 1 iilot study for preclinical trial with ips-derived glial precursors for chronic lesions of sci.

(Preclinical means rats.)

On the forelimb reaching task, you measure how well the rat can reach out and grab a pellet. They took human skin cells, turned them into glial cells, and put them into the rat. A month out from injury, they put the cells into the rat, it did have dramatic improvement, which disappeared with immune system protection withdrawn.

They'll be producing patient specific cell lines under GMP conditions
They'll find out if stem cells create a zone of plasticity
They'll figure out how to collaborate with other scientists . . .