New Type of Spinal Cord Stem Cell Discovered
Synopsis: Spinal cord cells could function as stem cells with the ability to regenerate portions of the central nervous system in people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Stem cells can divide into more specialized types of cells, either during the growth of an organism or to help replenish other cells. Scientists consider stem cells a promising replacement for injured or diseased organs and tissues. The discovery opens new possibilities for potential gene therapy treatments that would replace mutated, dysfunctional spinal cord cells with healthier ones produced by the radial glial cells.
- Spinal Cord
The human spinal cord is a cylindrical structure of nervous tissue composed of white and gray matter, is uniformly organized and is divided into four regions: cervical (C), thoracic (T), lumbar (L), and sacral (S), each of which is comprised of several segments. The spinal cord is the most important structure between the body and the brain. The spinal cord extends from the foramen magnum, which is continuous with the medulla to the level of the first or second lumbar vertebrae. It is a vital link between the brain and the body and from the body to the brain. The spinal cord is 40 to 50 cm long and 1 cm to 1.5 cm in diameter.
A group led by a University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health scientist has discovered a type of spinal cord cell that could function as a stem cell, with the ability to regenerate portions of the central nervous system in people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease).
The radial glial cells, marked by long projections that can forge through brain tissue, had never previously been found in an adult spinal cord. Radial glia, instrumental in building the brain and spinal cord during an organism's embryonic phase, vastly outnumber other potential stem cells in the spinal cord and are much more accessible. Their findings were published online this week in PLoS One.
Stem cells can divide into more specialized types of cells, either during the growth of an organism or to help replenish other cells. Scientists consider stem cells a promising replacement for injured or diseased organs and tissues.
The search for spinal stem cells of the central nervous system has, until now, focused deep in the spinal cord. Jane Roskams, a professor in the UBC Dept. of Zoology, broadened the search by using genetic profiles of nervous system stem cells developed and made publicly accessible by the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.
Roskams, collaborating with researchers at the Allen Institute, McGill University, and Yale University, found cells with similar genes - radial glial cells - along the outside edge of the spinal cords of mice.
"That is exactly where you would want these cells to be if you want to activate them with drugs while minimizing secondary damage," says Roskams, a member of ICORD (International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries) and the Brain Research Center, both partnerships of UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
Roskams' team also found that radial glial cells in the spinal cord share a unique set of genes with other neural stem cells. Several of these - when mutated - can lead to human diseases, including some that target the nervous system. That discovery opens new possibilities for potential gene therapy treatments that would replace mutated, dysfunctional spinal cord cells with healthier ones produced by the radial glial cells.
"These long strands of radial glial cells amount to a potentially promising repair network that is perfectly situated to help people recover from spinal cord injuries or spinal disorders," Roskams says. "For some reason, they aren't re-activated very effectively in adulthood. The key is stimulating them, so they reprise their role of generating new neural cells when needed."
The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Jack Brown and Family Alzheimer's Research Foundation.
This peer reviewed article relating to our Regenerative Medicine section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "New Type of Spinal Cord Stem Cell Discovered" was originally written by University of British Columbia, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2011-09-15 (Updated: 2022-10-08). Should you require further information or clarification, University of British Columbia can be contacted at ubc.ca. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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