Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden have shown how the transplantation of stem cells improves recovery from spinal injury. However, a painful condition can also develop, which can be prevented if the stem cells are supplemented with a certain gene that controls their maturing process. The results are important for planning of stem cell therapy trials on patients with spinal injury.

Spinal injury can cause loss of movement and sensation below the level of injury. A research team at Karolinska Institutet demonstrated using rat models that the introduction of stem cells following such injury is effective, with a caveat. Injection of stem cells into the damaged area of the spine improves motor function (movement) below the injury level. However scientists found that the rats developed greater pain sensitivity just above it.

In a follow-up study, a special gene, neurogenin-2, was added to the stem cells while they were developing in culture. When stem cells containing this gene were transplanted into the damaged spinal cord, the adverse pain effects failed to appear while the enhancement of motor function improved. Sensory function (feeling) below the injury also clearly improved.

BTW: With the help of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the team, has managed for the first time to demonstrate the return of sensory function following spinal injury.

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For more information, please contact:
Professor Lars Olson, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet,
phone +46 8 524 870 50, +46 70 670 3388 or mail