In a discovery which may have dramatic effects on the treatment of people suffering with with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), scientists have discovered a type of spinal cord cell that could function as a stem cell, with the ability to regenerate portions of the central nervous. These radial glial cells, which are marked by long projections that can forge through brain tissue, had never previously been seen in an adult spinal cord. The radial glia, which are vital in building the brain and spinal cord during an organism’s embryonic phase, are said to greatly outnumber other potential stem cells in the spinal cord and are much more easily accessible.
This study has been reported on in BioScience Technology, New Type of Spinal Cord Stem Cell Discovered. Stem cells have been shown to have the capability of dividing into more specialized types of cells. This occurs either during the growth of an organism or to help replenish other cells. Stem cells are considered a promising way to replace injured or diseased organs and tissues by scientists. Until recently the search for spinal stem cells of the central nervous system has focused deep in the spinal cord.
Jane Roskams, who is a professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia, has broadened this search by using genetic profiles of nervous system stem cells which were developed and made publicly accessible by the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. Roskams, along with researchers at the Allen Institute, McGill University and Yale University, have discovered cells with similar genes, radial glial cells, along the outside edge of spinal cords of mice. Roskams has commented “That is exactly where you would want these cells to be if you want to activate them with drugs while minimizing secondary damage.”
Roskams’ team has also discovered that radial glial cells in the spinal cord share a unique set of genes with other neural stem cells. When mutated several of these can lead to human diseases, which include some that target the nervous system. This discovery opens up new possibilities for possible gene therapy treatments that would replace mutated, dysfunctional spinal cord cells with healthier ones which are produced by the radial glial cells. Roskams has said “These long strands of radial glial cells amount to a potentially promising repair network that is perfectly situated to help people recover from spinal cord injuries or spinal disorders.”
Photographer: renjith krishnan
Mandel News Service