Stem cells are remarkable, and their usage has come a long way since scientists first began extracting them from human embryos in the late 1990s. Scientists have now found ways to mine stem cells from different parts of the body, including a person's stomach and bone marrow, to treat a variety of chronic conditions. Just recently, researchers from Hokkaido University and around the world have even found a way to possibly repair serious spinal cord injuries using stem cells. The study was recently published in Nature Medicine.
"Stem cells have the unique ability to change into many different types of cells."
When provoked, stem cells have the unique ability to change into many different types of cells. These cells then multiply exponentially to not only mend but also replenish other cells. In the case of this current study, that is exactly what's happening. Scientists are using stem cells to repair devastating spinal cord injuries.
Scientists have yet to try the procedure on humans – it's still in its early phases – but results have been astonishing so far on rats. The researchers took stem cells from rat embryos and provoked the cells to develop into spinal cord tissue. After the cells transformed, they noticed the severed spinal nerve fibers began to regenerate.
As explained by the researchers, the corticospinal tract is "the most important motor system in humans." The CST consists of an arrangement of axons that extend from a person's brain to their spinal cord. Damage to the CST can result in complete loss of motor function, and, up until now, scientists have yet to find a way to repair this part of the body. In the study, after injecting stem cells into the damaged area, scientists noticed that the injured rats had some use of their forelimbs again. While more research is needed, this study further proves that stem cell treatments are a viable option to manage, treat or repair serious conditions.