Stem cell therapy for the spinal cord

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2012 Jul 9;3(4):24. doi: 10.1186/scrt115.


Injury and disease of the spinal cord are generally met with a poor prognosis. This poor prognosis is due not only to the characteristics of the diseases but also to our poor ability to deliver therapeutics to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is extremely sensitive to direct manipulation, and delivery of therapeutics has proven a challenge for both scientists and physicians. Recent advances in stem cell technologies have opened up a new avenue for the treatment of spinal cord disease and injury. Stem cells have proven beneficial in rodent models of spinal cord disease and injury. In these animal models, stem cells have been shown to produce their effect by the dual action of cell replacement and the trophic support of the factors secreted by these cells. In this review we look at the main clinical trials involving stem cell transplant into the spinal cord, focusing on motor neuron diseases and spinal cord injury. We will also discuss the major hurdles in optimizing stem cell delivery methods into the spinal cord. We shall examine current techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging guidance and cell labeling and will look at the current research striving to improve these techniques. With all caveats and future research taken into account, this is a very exciting time for stem cell transplant into the spinal cord. We are only beginning to realize the huge potential of stem cells in a central nervous system setting to provide cell replacement and trophic support. Many more trials will need to be undertaken before we can fully exploit the attributes of stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*