Cells in patients noses hold potential to restore function in spinal cord injury

Implanting olfactory ensheathing glial cells into the spinal cords of paralyzed adult rats recently has been shown to promote neuronal cell repair and restore function. After transplantation, the rats were able to walk, even climb over complex terrain, and respond to touch and proprioception (stimuli originating in muscles and tendons) in their hind-limbs. These results are the most dramatic functional and histological repair yet achieved after complete spinal cord transection in adult mammals, and they open new avenues in the search for treatment of spinal cord injuries in other mammals, including humans.

The leader of the group of scientists who achieved this, Dr. Almudena Ramon-Cueto, Institute of Biomedicine, Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Valencia, is one of a panel of experts speaking in New Orleans April 22 at an Experimental Biology 2002 American Association of Anatomists symposium on Olfactory Ensheathing Cells: Therapeutic Potential in Spinal Cord Injury. Chaired by Dr. Kathryn J. Jones, Loyola University in Chicago, the panel discusses the location and structure olfactory ensheathing cells, how they work, and why the best hope for restoring function in human spinal cord injury patients might well lie in their own noses.

Dr. Ramon-Cueto presents the data from her adult rat study and discusses the advantages of using olfactory ensheathing glia to treat spinal cord injuries in mammals. An important one, she says, is that these cells can be obtained from adult donors, offering the possibility of auto-transplantation. If this technique had a future application in humans, the patient could be his or her own donor. Using the patients own plentiful supply of these olfactory ensheathing cells would resolve problems with tissue availability as well as the need for immune system suppression to avoid rejection of foreign tissue. The cells also hold great promise in overriding the usual hostility of the brain and spinal cord of adult ma

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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