AWAKENINGS

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

Jan. 29, 2009 Researcher finds stem cell success

aspen-daily-news-12909
 

Heather Rousseau/Aspen Daily News
 Stephen Davies, associate professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of Colorado-Denver, talks to Amanda Boxtel (right) and others at the Given Institute Wednesday night after his lecture about new stem cell technolo­gies for spinal cord repair.

By Curtis Wackerle


 Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

  Not all stem cells are created equal.
  Dr. Stephen Davies, a University of Colorado Medical School scientist on the cutting edge of spinal chord injury research, spoke Wednesday night to about 60 people at the Given Institute about a breakthrough he made by manipulating stem cells into a certain type of spinal chord cell. The crowd included at least six wheelchair-bound spi­nal- chord injury victims.
  Minor differences in astrocyte cells — which support neurons in the spinal chord — turned out to have major differences.
  Previous research had shown that cer­tain types of astrocytes created more scar tissue in a spinal chord injury, which in­hibits the neuron pathways that commu­nicate between body and brain. Stem cell induced scar tissue built up in the spinal chord also causes pain in patients.
  But when Davies started experiment­ing with GDA-BTM, a type of astrocyte, the results were encouraging. The BTM astrocytes promoted nerve fiber growth across a spinal chord injury, with 40 per­cent of the nerve fibers able to bridge the gap of severe spinal chord injuries in lab rats. Untreated injuries typically see re­growth in the low single digits. The in­troduction of the astrocyte cells also pre­vented the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, which is a side effect of spinal chord injury.
  Lab rats that received this treatment regained near normal walking ability,
Davies reported.
  For nearly 20 years, Davies has been studying why nerve fibers don’t regenerate after a spinal chord injury — a quandary that has kept scientists guessing for more than 100 years. Especially when new born
babies up to five days old have shown the ability to regrow the nerve cells.
  Davies believes the answer lies in scar tissue, which forms after an injury. In forming scar tissue, the body draws on whatever cells are available in the
specific area. With the spinal chord, these cells happen to be dense cells that provide support in the middle of the spi­nal chord — not the best for promoting nerve fiber regrowth.
  “We were the first lab in the world to really look in detail at how scar tissue is formed,” said Davies, who is originally from Scotland.
  Besides the astrocyte tests, Davies and colleagues have had great success inhib­iting scar tissue by introducing a protein called Decorin into spinal chord injuries.
  About one in five spinal chord in­juries are a result of sports and recre­ation, with car accidents and falls by the elderly the main causes, Davies said. But men suffer 80 percent of the spinal chord injuries, and 53 percent of the injuries are to people under 30 years old. In the United States, there are about 450,000 spinal chord injuries with about 11,000 new cases every year. There is no approved therapy in America for spinal chord injuries, Davies said.
  “We are all at risk,” he said.
  But that may be changing. One of the first moves President Barack Obama made in office was to grant federal funding to Geron, a California company working on treating spinal chord injuries by promot­ing the regrowth of myelin, which helps nerve fibers function. Federal funding of stem cell research was banned under the George W. Bush administration.



 

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2 Comments»

  maloel wrote @

This gives me some hope and a reason to stay alive. Thank you Amanda.

  Kim from Australia wrote @

i Amanda,

I hope all is going well.

Have you seen the latest on the ‘Scar Eating’ enzyme’, this article refers to it in relation to Spinal Cord Injuries.
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/11/03/2731813.htm

Cheers
Kim


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