Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating trauma causing long-lasting disability. Although advances have occurred in the last decade in the medical, surgical and rehabilitative treatments of SCI, the therapeutic approaches are still not ideal. The use of cell transplantation as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of SCI is promising, particularly since it can target cell replacement, neuroprotection and regeneration. Cell therapies for treating SCI are limited due to several translational roadblocks, including ethical and practical concerns regarding cell sources. The use of iPSCs has been particularly attractive, since they avoid the ethical and moral concerns that surround other stem cells. Furthermore, various cell types with potential for application in the treatment of SCI can be created from autologous sources using iPSCs. For applications in SCI, the iPSCs can be differentiated into neural precursor cells, neurons, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, neural crest cells and mesenchymal stromal cells that can act by replacing lost cells or providing environmental support. Some methods, such as direct reprogramming, are being investigated to reduce tumorigenicity and improve reprogramming efficiencies, which have been some of the issues surrounding the use of iPSCs clinically to date. Recently, iPSCs have entered clinical trials for use in age-related macular degeneration, further supporting their promise for translation in other conditions, including SCI.
Keywords: cell therapy; clinical translation; neuroprotection; neuroregeneration; spinal cord injury.