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UC San Diego Researchers Use Stem Cells To Restore Mobility

Aired 9/14/12 on KPBS News.

For the first time, researchers at UC San Diego have used stem cells to help rats with severed spinal cords regain mobility.

UC San Diego researchers have used early stage stem cells to restore movement in rats that had suffered severe spinal cord injuries. Researchers say the stem cells in essence rewired the spinal cord.

Previous studies showed stem cells implanted at the site of a spinal cord injury didn't survive for long.

In this study, researchers embedded the stem cells in a gel. That allowed the cells to stick to and completely fill the injury site. Scientists also added a cocktail of growth factors.

UC San Diego's Mark Tuszynski, the study's principal investigator, said the technique generated an enormous amount of new neurons.

"That amount of growth, and the ability of this to improve function after the most severe spinal cord injury, moves this into the realm of potential human translation," Tuszynski explained.

Tuzynski said after the therapy, rats were able to move their hind legs again, but not at full strength.

Paul Lu, assistant research scientist at UC San Diego's Center for Neural Repair, contributed to the study.

Their research is published in the journal Cell.

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