Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Building Backbone
28 July 2018

Building Backbone

Our immune system is like an over zealous bodyguard. Brilliant at warding off unwanted infections but occasionally a little overprotective. For example, researchers hoping to help spinal cord injury patients by replacing damaged cells with new ones must bypass this enthusiastic immune army. A new study has managed it by using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) – cells with their biological clock wound back until they can develop into any type of cell. The researchers transplanted iPSCs derived from a pig’s skin cells onto its spinal cord, and found they developed healthily over many months. The immune system didn’t object because they originated from the same animal. The study also managed to repeat the feat between pigs with just a short course of immunosuppression (cells pictured at different stages of development following transplantation – red/yellow are young, pink/blue are mature). A step in the right direction for spinal cord injuries.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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