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Thread: Genetically Engineered Stem Cells Support Nerve Regeneration

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

    Genetically Engineered Stem Cells Support Nerve Regeneration

    Genetically Engineered Stem Cells Support Nerve Regeneration

    Gabe Romain
    Betterhumans Staff
    Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 6:22:01 PM CT

    A finding about how genetically engineered stem cells heal damaged nerve fibers months after an injury has provided further evidence that stem cells release therapeutic molecules that can help treat spinal cord damage.

    Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland report that nerves of injured rats regenerated as much as six months after treatment with modified stem cells from mice.

    "This is the first demonstration of regeneration in chronically denervated nerves," says Ahmet Hoke of Johns Hopkins.

    Spinal cord injury

    Spinal cord injury occurs when a traumatic event results in damage to cells within the spinal cord or severs the nerve tracts that relay signals up and down the spinal cord.

    When injured in accidents, or by destructive illnesses such diabetes and AIDS, these nerves typically do not regenerate very well.

    "The more time a nerve has been disconnected from its target, and the greater the length of nerve regeneration needed, the worse the chances are," says Hoke.

    Because stem cells have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the human body, scientists are hoping to use them to repair or replace damaged nerve cells.

    Cell mimicry

    To this end the researchers attached a freshly cut nerve to one that had been cut six months before and allowed to deteriorate.

    They then transplanted stem cells from the nervous systems of mice into the area of nerve repair.

    The researchers hoped that stem cells would mimic Schwann cells-a type of supporting cell that helps separate and insulate nerve cells.

    "Schwann cells normally secrete growth factors and other proteins that enhance regeneration," says Hoke.

    Using stem cells genetically engineered to make a growth factor called GDNF, the researchers observed the regeneration of nerve fibers within six months.

    Double benefit

    Biochemical analyses of the area surrounding the regenerating nerves suggested that the stem cells were not only providing nutritive molecules but also helping to clear the area of proteins that prevent regeneration.

    "Our study gives insight into possible mechanisms of regeneration in chronically denervated nerves, but there's much to do," says Hoke. "We'd like to improve the recovery of nerve function so it's higher than 25%. We also need to identify exactly what combination of growth factors and other proteins and enzymes are missing in chronically denervated nerves."

    The findings add to evidence that stem cells support nerve cell regeneration by producing supportive molecules.

    This June, researchers reported that stem cells support nerve cell survival in paralyzed rats by releasing TGF-alpha, which promotes nerve cell survival, and BDNF, which strengthens nerve cell connections.

    The study by Hoke and colleagues was reported in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association.


  2. #2
    Senior Member Schmeky's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    West Monroe, LA, USA
    John's Hopkins indicates they have achieved 25% recovery of damaged nerve function. I was under the impression we (humans) only need a 10% recovery??

  3. #3
    Senior Member DA's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    beaumont tx usa
    schmeky this one of them experiment that cant be applied to humans. they were just trying to prove a theory.

  4. #4
    schmeky, this is a very confusingly written article. It talks about spinal cord injury but the experiments seem to be about peripheral nerve. Wise.

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