Custom Stem Cells Developed That May Treat Spinal Cord Injuries


New technology has been developed in Korea by a team of researchers, led by professor Kim Jeong-boem of the Bio Science Division at the Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology. This new research is producing customized stem cells to be used as a form of treatment in spinal cord injuries and other severe diseases through successful development of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs).

 A form of a spinal cord cell, these OPCs are made up of myelin - the protective layer that surrounds the nerves of the spine. By using this cell, myelin that was destroyed following a SCI can be regenerated, allowing spinal cord injuries to effectively be treated.

What did the research entail?

By injecting the gene Oct4 (a core gene of a stem cell) into skin cells, the team attempted direct reprogramming with OPCs. This differentiates the skin cells from a desired skin cells, and when an OPC is differentiated through this technology, it does not enter a pluripotent state. This means it cannot turn into a cancer cell, nor any other kind of cell.  

What does this prove?

This research was tested on animals over a period of ten months, and through this, proved its genetic stability and treatment effects. The results from this breakthrough research could lead to methods to treat spinal cord injury patients, alongside bio 3D printing technology which is being used to create biological tissues with a three dimensional printer.

“This means we developed a new cell production technology that overcomes the limitations of current OPC production methods. The go-ahead was given to the treatment of refractory diseases,” Professor Kim said of the work.

They are planning to produce spinal cord tissue with the technology of the OPCs and 3D printers. This will allow transplantation of actual spinal tissue to injured patients.

What could this research mean for the SCI community?

This advance in spinal cord injury research has the potential to be a great achievement and very exciting for the whole of the spinal cord community. With SCIs currently untreatable, this research demonstrates promising breakthroughs and potential future treatment in the SCI field.

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