Stem cells for neck injury: $20 million

Stem cells for neck injury: $20 million July 27th, 2012, 3:45 pm posted by Pat Brennan, science, environment editor

Human neural stem cell. Image courtesy StemCells Inc.

The states stem-cell institute has awarded $20 million to UC Irvine researchers, along with a private company, to prepare the way for human testing of a treatment for spinal-cord injuries in the neck region one that could restore movement and independence for some of the 1.3 million spinal-cord injury sufferers in the United States.

The treatment, developed by the husband and wife research team, Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings, along with StemCells Inc. of Newark, Ca., would involve injecting versatile human neural stem cells into the neck area.

The cells, capable of transforming themselves based on cues from the body, could then migrate to the injured area and perhaps repair the protective sheaths, known as myelin, around nerve cells. If the treatment works as expected, it would restore movement and body control for patients with debilitating injuries.

While the treatment has the potential to allow the paralyzed to walk again, more modest gains are more likely and well worth the effort, Anderson said Friday.

UC Irvine husband-wife research team, Brian Cummings and Aileen Anderson. Courtesy UC Irvine.

Obviously that would be, of course, what we in our wildest dreams would see in a clinical trial, she said. But likely what youre going to see for any spinal cord injury is much more incremental improvement in function. For people with spinal cord injuries, that could be a huge thing. It could help with health care costs, the ability to function independently. If you can type on a computer, versus not, or write with a pen it changes an awful lot.

The $20 million was among $150 million authorized on Thursday by the board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a stem-cell funding body created by a California voter initiative in 2004.

Anderson and Cummings are among a cadre of stem-cell scientists at UCIs Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, and have already pushed the field forward.

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Stem cells for neck injury: $20 million

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