Physical activity-mediated functional recovery after spinal cord injury: potential roles of neural stem cells

Regen Med. 2006 Nov;1(6):763-76. doi: 10.2217/17460751.1.6.763.


As data elucidating the complexity of spinal cord injury pathophysiology emerge, it is increasingly being recognized that successful repair will probably require a multifaceted approach that combines tactics from various biomedical disciplines, including pharmacology, cell transplantation, gene therapy and material sciences. Recently, new evidence highlighting the benefit of physical activity and rehabilitation interventions during the post-injury phase has provided novel possibilities in realizing effective repair after spinal cord injury. However, before a comprehensive therapeutic strategy that optimally utilizes the benefits of each of these disciplines can be designed, the basic mechanisms by which these various interventions act must be thoroughly explored and important synergistic and antagonistic interactions identified. In examining the mechanisms by which physical activity-based functional recovery after spinal cord injury is effected, endogenous neural stem cells, in our opinion, engender a potentially key role. Multipotent neural stem cells possess many faculties that abet recovery, including the ability to assess the local microenvironment and deliver biofactors that promote neuroplasticity and regeneration, as well as the potential to replenish damaged or eradicated cellular elements. Encouragingly, the functional recovery owing to physical activity-based therapies appears relatively robust, even when therapy is initiated in the chronic stage of spinal cord injury. In this article, we review experimental outcomes related to our hypothesis that endogenous neural stem cells mediate the functional recovery noted in spinal cord injury following physical activity-based treatments. Overall, the data advocates the incorporation of increased physical activity as a component of the multidimensional treatment of spinal cord injury and underscores the critical need to employ research-based mechanistic approaches for developing future advances in the rehabilitation of neurological injury and disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation