Stem Cell Treatment Heals Spinal Cord Injuries In Mice

A team of researchers from several Japanese universities announced they have been successful in repairing the damaged spinal cords of mice using iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells. The treatment, though complex and lengthy, holds out hope to those who have suffered spinal cord injuries causing varying degrees of paralysis.

The researchers, led by professor Hideyuki Okano of Keio University and professor Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University (top), recently published the results of their experiments in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

"With strict evaluation of the safety of iPS cells, the path to using them in the future to treat spinal cord injuries has been opened," said professor Okano in a prepared statement. The safe use of iPS has long been a goal of researchers worldwide, as these types of stem cells are sourced from adult cells and not human embryos.

The greatest problem in using iPS for medical applications is that the cells can grow uncontrollably, causing tumors in the areas to be treated. The Japanese team got around this roadblock in a novel way: iPS were transplanted into the brains of mice and their growth was monitored closely for up to 6 months.

Then the researchers harvested 500,000 of the cells that had not formed tumors, and injected them into the damaged spinal cord of a mouse 9 days after its injury. The subject mouse, which had lost all mobility in its hind legs, soon recovered the ability to use its legs.

The treatment poses a number of problems should it be extended to humans sometime in the future, most notably the part about growing the iPS cells in "a brain" for 6 months.

Then again, certain shortcuts and liberties were taken by the Japanese team because the test subjects were lab mice - the main point to be proved was whether this type of treatment could be effectual. Further research will refine the steps involved so that treating human subjects  can be made practicable. (via Mainichi Daily News and Gladstone/UCSF)

Jul 8, 2010
by Anonymous


When will this breakthrough help people?

Jul 8, 2010
by Anonymous

motor neuron disease ALS

Will this help me with this horrible illness just diagnosed What we have to wait for now is the beaucracy of the Japanese government I live in Scotland Edinburgh and I know Prof Wilmut admires this work and hope in edinburgh they can apply it PLEASE PLEASE HURRY UP I DO NOT WANT TO DIE

Jul 8, 2010
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

The potential of stem cells

As stem cells are able to transform themselves into any type of human cell, not only motor neurons, they may be the so-called "magic bullet" physicians have long been looking for. The downside is, the research is in its early stages and it's a long way from a mouse to a man - and with good reason: a flawed treatment may be worse than no treatment at all. I don't think bureaucracy is the issue here, other than governmental oversight being necessary to guide, focus and fund the research. By following proven scientific methods, an effective treatment may someday be found that provides only benefits, no drawbacks. Let's all hope that day arrives as soon as possible!

Jul 8, 2010
by Anonymous


Stem cell research is currently being used in humans. There are more than 100 clinical trials ongoing using adult stem cells such as bone marrow, placental matrix, cord blood and fat stem cells. Unfortunately the popular media has focused on embryonic or embryonic-like (inducible pluripotent) cells instead of highlighting patient successes in the US and Western Europe using adult stem cells. These include successful treatment of conditions such as liver failure, heart failure, and stroke. While data is still being collected, adult stem cells are only available in clinical trials or at clinics that offer treatments whose safety but not efficacy is proven yet.

Thomas Ichim
Chief Executive Officer
Medistem Inc
9255 Town Centre Drive
San Diego
CA 92122
858 349 3617

Jul 8, 2010
by Anonymous

Lives saved

I personally know of two people whose lives have been saved by adult stem cell transplants, one from cancer of the spine (autologous) and mantle cell lymphoma (from a sibling). Both these cancers are aggressive and do not give great odds for survival.
These treatments with adult stem cells save lives without taking the lives of innocent pre-born children.