Changing nerve cells could treat spinal injury

24 November 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

stem–cells.jpgNerve cells made from a person's own skin suggest a novel way to treat spinal injury.

Spinal cord damage in rats and dogs has previously been treated using a specific type of nerve cell stem called OEC. OECs were only thought to be produced in the lining of the nose and the smell-sense region of the brain. This makes it difficult and dangerous to extract the large number of these cells needed for spinal damage treatment.

But researchers have now found the OECs can be produced from a different type of nerve cell called neural crest cells. Using growing chicken and mice embryos they found that that these neural crest cells change into OECs. They were able to visually track the changing cells by genetically modifying the embryos so that these cells glowed green in UV light.

As neural crest cells are also found in human skin cells, OECs for spinal injury treatment could be grown from a patient's own skin. Scientist now face the challenge of growing enough of these OEC's from human skin.

Read more about spinal injury here.