Spinal Cord Injury may be recovered through stem cells by finding a way to differentiate and derive a special kind of cell called interneurons, according to Daily Bruin. UCLA researchers from Eli and Edyth Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research discovered this in January.
The researchers found that stem cells can mature into sensory interneurons, which can help in the recovery of spine damages. Interneurons are involved with reflex functions in the brain, like moving your hand away from a hot iron. They also process, react, or pass the information to the brain for analysis.
However, to be able to use this discovery in a medical treatment, researchers must find a way to differentiate stem cells into sensory interneurons, which is a new challenge for scientists who had already found ways to differentiate stem cell neurons.
“Directing stem cells into spinal motor neurons was developed a while ago,” said Samantha Butler, a professor of neurobiology and senior author of the research to Daily Bruin, “But how to differentiate stem cells into sensory interneurons was really an open question – a protocol needed to be developed.”
Young stem cells can differentiate or mature into specific cell types, like blood cells or neurons, according to the National Institutes of Health. To replace old or damaged tissues with young and healthy cells, it is crucial to learn how to differentiate stem cells into specific neuron types.
According to the article, Spinal Cord Injuries cost $40 billion in health care annually in the United States. Current therapies are only enough to protect patients from further spinal cord damage, however Stem Cell therapies may reverse and repair damage by replacing damaged cells with new ones.
H/T: UCLA Researchers
National Institutes of Health