It’s hard to not get excited about stem cells and their potential. The advances that will likely take place due to stem cells (and already have!) couldn’t have been dreamed up by even George Jetson’s creators. (Side note: where’s my flying car and robot housekeeper?!) Today’s image is from a paper showing the success of stem cells in healing a spinal cord injury.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells able to differentiate into various other cell types throughout development and adulthood. The prospect of using stem cells in treating diseases or repairing traumatic injuries drives the research of many biologists. A recent paper describes how stem cells can repair a spinal cord injury in mice. Lu and colleagues grafted mouse neural stem cells onto the sites of severe spinal cord injuries, and found that these cells differentiated into different cell types, including neurons. These neurons projected long axons that were able to form synapses with host neurons, and allowed functional recovery of the spinal cord. Human stem cells exhibited similar growth within the injured spinal cords of mice. The images above show the site of an injured spinal cord, several weeks after the injury. Neural stem cells (green) were able to grow and completely fill in the injured area.
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Lu P, Wang Y, Graham L, McHale K, Gao M, Wu D, Brock J, Blesch A, Rosenzweig ES, Havton LA, Zheng B, Conner JM, Marsala M, & Tuszynski MH (2012). Long-distance growth and connectivity of neural stem cells after severe spinal cord injury. Cell, 150 (6), 1264-73 PMID: 22980985