Rats Injected with Stem Cells: Improved Spinal Injuries?

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine led a study in which rats were injected with one dose of human neural stem cells.  The cell graft improved function and mobility, as well as neuronal regeneration in the rats suffering from acute spinal cord injuries.

According to anesthesiology professor Dr. Martin Marsala and colleagues at the University of California, grafting neural stem cells derived from human fetal spinal cords, and transferring the cells to the rats spinal injury site had many therapeutic benefits.  These benefits range from less spasticity of muscles to the forging of new connections between the injected stem cells and surviving neurons within the rats. The scientists reported that the human stem cells seemed to take root vigorously at the injury site, aiding the recovery process to the point where any cavities or cysts formed at the injury site disappeared as grafted cells were introduced.

The rats received the stem cell injections exactly three days after sustaining the spinal injury, in addition to several drugs that lessened the immune response of the rats so that their bodies would properly accept the stem calls. The stem cells appeared to stimulate the rats’ neuron regeneration, as well as partially replace functionality of lost neurons. The rats had greater control of their paws, and a raised overall quality of life.

With this knowledge in hand, scientists are working to develop neural precursor cells that could potentially become any one of the three cell types found in the nervous system.  This would lead to induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients, a tool that void the need of immunosuppressants in stem cell therapies.


  • Sebastiaan van Gorp, Marjolein Leerink, Osamu Kakinohana, Oleksandr Platoshyn, Camila Santucci, Jan Galik, Elbert A Joosten, Marian Hruska-Plochan, Danielle Goldberg, Silvia Marsala, Karl Johe, Joseph D Ciacci, Martin Marsala. Amelioration of motor/sensory dysfunction and spasticity in a rat model of acute lumbar spinal cord injury by human neural stem cell transplantation. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 2013; 4 (5): 57 DOI: 1186/scrt209
  • University of California – San Diego (2013, May 27). Stem cell injections improve spinal injuries in rats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/05/130527231843.htm

By Lauren Horne

The Roskamp Institute is a 501(c)3 research facility dedicated to translating the efforts of its qualified research staff into real-world results for those suffering from neurological diseases. To learn more about our programs and to get information about donating, visit http://www.rfdn.org.