CHENNAI: Researchers from two city-based institutes have found a way to treat spinal cord injuries by inserting scaffolds with stem cells.
They tried the technique on a six-month-old dog with paraplegia
and found that it recovered a few reflexes in 133 days. They monitored its progress for two years till it could walk and run, before publishing their findings. The technique can be used in humans, they say.
The study was conducted by doctors from Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) and researchers from Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM). It was published in the November issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy.
"In this case, recovery is faster. It is a scientific advancement," said Dr J K B C Parthiban, president, Neuro Spinal Surgeons' Association of India and consultant at Globe Hospital. He was speaking at a press meet to discuss the importance of veterinary regenerative medicine in spinal cord repair and its application in treating people.
In human regenerative medicine, stem cells
are injected close to the spinal cord injury or through the veins so that they get deposited near the injury. The researchers have shown that stem cells, derived from the bone marrow, can be inserted at the injury site using scaffolds. The scaffold-in this case made of a thermoreversible gelation polymer
, which is suitable for growing cells and compatible with the body-creates a structure for the stem cells to cling onto, and not move away from the injury site.
vice-chancellor Dr R Prabakaran, who was part of the study, said, "Since the concepts of human and veterinary medicine are similar, we hope the idea will have applications in human medicine. The study will bridge the gap between veterinary and human sciences." The study is titled 'Functional Recovery of Spinal Cord Injury Following Application of Intralesional Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cells Embedded in Polymer Scaffold'.
The technique will be tested on five animal models. Neurophysiological tests will be conducted by TANUVAS, in association with NCRM and Nagarjuna University.
TANUVAS plans to start a postgraduate diploma programme in regenerative medicine in collaboration with Virginia Tech
in the US, NCRM in Chennai, and Hokkaido University in Japan.