A systematic review of cellular transplantation therapies for spinal cord injury

J Neurotrauma. 2011 Aug;28(8):1611-82. doi: 10.1089/neu.2009.1177. Epub 2010 Apr 20.


Cell transplantation therapies have become a major focus in pre-clinical research as a promising strategy for the treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI). In this article, we systematically review the available pre-clinical literature on the most commonly used cell types in order to assess the body of evidence that may support their translation to human SCI patients. These cell types include Schwann cells, olfactory ensheathing glial cells, embryonic and adult neural stem/progenitor cells, fate-restricted neural/glial precursor cells, and bone-marrow stromal cells. Studies were included for review only if they described the transplantation of the cell substrate into an in-vivo model of traumatic SCI, induced either bluntly or sharply. Using these inclusion criteria, 162 studies were identified and reviewed in detail, emphasizing their behavioral effects (although not limiting the scope of the discussion to behavioral effects alone). Significant differences between cells of the same "type" exist based on the species and age of donor, as well as culture conditions and mode of delivery. Many of these studies used cell transplantations in combination with other strategies. The systematic review makes it very apparent that cells derived from rodent sources have been the most extensively studied, while only 19 studies reported the transplantation of human cells, nine of which utilized bone-marrow stromal cells. Similarly, the vast majority of studies have been conducted in rodent models of injury, and few studies have investigated cell transplantation in larger mammals or primates. With respect to the timing of intervention, nearly all of the studies reviewed were conducted with transplantations occurring subacutely and acutely, while chronic treatments were rare and often failed to yield functional benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / methods*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / transplantation*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / transplantation*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / surgery*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*