Spinal injuries often lead to irreversible functional impairment.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute have successfully shown that spinal cord stem cells can stimulate the formation of large numbers of new oligodendrocytes.
These cells are necessary for signal transmission. They are also able to repair the spinal cord after injury.
According to the researchers, the spinal cord transmits signals from the brain to the rest of the body. However, a damaged spinal cord can cause paralysis. This is because some nerve fibers are cut and others are less efficient.
This dysfunction is often due to the loss of oligodendrocytes, cells that facilitate neuronal signaling .spinal injuries
In many organs, it is possible to repair damaged tissues with stem cells, by converting them into lost cell types. In this case, the stem cells in the spinal cord of an adult after injury mostly form scar cells.
Scar tissue limits the extent of damage, but does not help repair lost cells.
Studies on lab rats showed that stem cell DNA is vulnerable to signals stimulating the formation of new oligodendrocytes.
The researchers were able to stimulate the production of new oligodendrocytes, which led to improved function of nerve fibers in the damaged spinal cord. This was possible by controlling which genes were activated in stem cells.
Causes of spinal injuries
As a reminder, damage to the spinal cord can occur for multiple reasons.
The most common cause is due to external trauma. Though it is not frequent, some causes such as tumors, blood loss, or stenosis can also cause non-traumatic injury to the spinal cord.
According to research, spinal cord injuries affect more men than women. Statistics also revealed that most people suffering from a spinal cord injury is between the ages of 16 and 30.