I have friends who are paralyzed so I admit to being biased when I read about promising research to repair the spinal cord. I’d like to see my friends walk, or, at least have more movement. The ability to simply hug their kids would be life-changing.
Today, there’s a new paper published by a CIRM grantee at the University of California San Diego that describes a big advance. Mark Tuszynski, co-author of the study and director of the UC San Diego Center for Neural Repair, was able to coerce neural stem cells implanted into the damaged region of the spine to grow past the injury, reconnecting the brain with the parts of the spinal cord below the injury.
The work was in rats, so all the usual caveats apply. Rats have been cured of many things in the lab that did not end up working in people. But still, those rats regained some movement.
The work Tuszynski describes in this paper formed the basis of a $4.7 million Early Translational award that will take the research from rats toward human trials.
A San Diego Union Tribune story quotes CIRM president Alan Trounson talking about the work:
“I’ve been in the business a long time and have never seen this degree of regeneration in rats. This is very significant work.”
That story went on to quote Susan Howley, executive vice president, research at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation talking about CIRM’s role in funding this research:
“At a time when money for research is so jeopardized across many funding sources, it’s particularly noteworthy that CIRM has the capacity to support this promising work and take it to the next level, particularly for individuals living with spinal cord injury.”
Our spinal cord injury fact sheet has more information about CIRM’s funding for the condition.