Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Spine-saving Spheres

Neural stem cells in collagen scaffolds promote nerve growth after spinal injury

09 August 2020

Spine-saving Spheres

Cut your hair or scratch your skin and they regrow. Not so with nerves within your spine – they don't regrow after injury. However, neural stem cells have shown promise for treating spinal injuries in mouse models. Translating these results to humans is more challenging and it's thought that the material in which neural stem cells are grafted is important. Collagen scaffolds are already used to encourage regrowth of other tissues in humans and so researchers grafted neural stem cells into mice following spinal injury using a similar approach. They tested collagen scaffolds akin to those used to help regrow skin and nerves outside the spine. Both supported neural stem cells growing in number to form clusters called neurospheres, as captured using scanning electron microscopy (pictured). The neurospheres went on to form functioning nerves that restored movement in treated mice to levels equivalent to normal mice, bringing hope for treating human spinal injuries.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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