Monday, February 20, 2006

Dissolving Implants With Stem Cells Offer Hope For Spinal Cord Damage - February 20, 2006

Early results from animal tests suggest that synthetic structures seeded with neuron-producing human stem cells can help rodents with severe spinal cord damage to regain mobility. Researchers involved hope the approach might one day help to heal nervous system injury in humans.

Evan Snyder, at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues designed special scaffolds to hold the neural stem cells. The tiny scaffolds ? just a few millimeters in size - are made partly out of polylactic glycolic acid, the same material used for dissolvable sutures. Once implanted into the body of laboratory animals the scaffolds vanish leaving the stem cells in place.

The team used a standard 21-point scale to rate the level of spinal cord function in the laboratory animals in which a score of zero indicates complete paralysis and 21 represents complete mobility.

The preliminary data shows that rodents given the tiny implants containing human stem cells can recover from spinal cord injury up to 14 on the scale. Snyder notes this represents considerable progress: "Twelve is the dividing line where you start getting reasonable functional improvement." The control animals that receive no stem cells score only about 3.

Snyder believes that the stem cells held in these "biobridge" scaffolds produce a positive effect by nurturing and sustaining the nerve cells in the recipient rodent. He adds that the scaffolding holds the stem cells in the right position to facilitate the reformation of tissue.

By: Andrea Moore - All Headline News Staff Reporter