16 November 2010

Origin Of Cells Associated With Nerve Repair Discovered

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Scientists have discovered the origin of a unique type of cell known for its ability to support regeneration in the central nervous system

Their findings, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), raise the possibility of obtaining a more reliable source of these cells for use in cell transplantation therapy for spinal cord injuries.

Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), as the name suggests, ensheath and protect the nerve fibres in the olfactory nerve, which transmit olfactory (smell) information to the brain from receptor cells sitting in the lining of the nose.

Excitingly, OECs can promote nerve repair when transplanted into the damaged spinal cord. They can also be grown in dishes from pieces of nasal lining but, unfortunately, in such small quantities that this may not be a viable option for use in treatments.

Dr Clare Baker, from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study, said: "In theory, one should be able to purify OECs from a patient's nose and transplant them into the damaged spinal cord to promote nerve repair, without any fear of graft rejection.

"Unfortunately, there aren't very many OECs in the nasal lining, and this tissue also contains other peripheral nerve fibres, ensheathed by cells that look very similar to OECs but which are less effective at promoting spinal cord repair. As a result, it has thus far proven difficult to purify sufficiently large numbers of OECs from the nasal lining for effective use in cell transplantation therapy."

For the last 25 years, OECs have been thought to be formed by the nasal lining itself. The new research, however, reveals a different origin for OECs that may enable scientists in the future to produce them in large quantities from adult stem cells.

(TerraDaily)

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