Stem Cell News

February 01, 2012

NSCI Researchers Find Potentially Valuable Therapeutic Intervention for Spinal Cord Injury

NSCI Researchers Find Potentially Valuable Therapeutic Intervention
for Spinal Cord Injury

RENSSELAER, N.Y.  (January 31, 2012) — Researchers at the Neural Stem Cell Institute have discovered a novel use of the protein, Sonic hedgehog (Shh),  as a potentially valuable therapeutic intervention for spinal cord injury (SCI).

Led by Dr. Sally Temple, Co-Founder and Scientific Director of the Neural Stem Cell Institute (NSCI) and Natasha Lowry of NSCI, the findings were published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Biomaterials.

Current treatments for SCI are based on patient stabilization and a regenerative medicine therapy that would help repair the damaged spinal cord is much sought-after.

Shh is a multifunctional growth factor that has a critical role in spinal cord formation. Hence ,NSCI researchers decided to test whether it could help in adult spinal cord injury by adding it to the environment around the injury site.

NSCI researchers found that prolonged, controlled delivery of Shh can be achieved with the use of a new, tiny device —  biodegradable microspheres. These microscopic structures are made of a material that has shown to be medically safe, and they can be loaded with Shh to slowly release it over time, like a slow-release medication. Once implanted in animal models of spinal cord injury, the Shh-loaded microspheres help promote functional recovery.

The Shh was found to reduce the formation of the scar that forms after injury and it promoted the growth of progenitor cells and neurons in the spinal cord. Importantly, spinal cord injured mice treated with the Shh-microspheres could walk better than injured mice that didn’t receive this treatment. Shh helped  prevent astrocytic scar formation, an inhibitor of regeneration, and promoted the formation of cell types that appear important for recovery.

“Through additional research, we at NSCI hope to explore moving Shh-microsphere treatments toward clinical trials for patients suffering from spinal cord injury,”   Dr. Temple said.

About the Neural Stem Cell Institute

The Neural Stem Cell Institute (NCSI) it is the only independent, non-profit stem cell research institute in the United States. Headquartered in Rensselaer, it is a unique organization that produces leading stem cell research to develop new therapies for diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). NSCI aims to harness the power of stem cells to ease suffering caused by injury and disease of the brain, spinal cord and retina.

NSCI was founded by MacArthur Award winner, Dr. Sally Temple of Slingerlands, who helped discover and define nervous system stem cells. A native of York, England, she has lived for over 20 years in the Albany area and leads a team of researchers focused on using neural stem cell therapies for brain, eye and spinal cord disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease, age-related macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, optic nerve injury, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.


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Kathy Condon

Condon Communications

PH: 518-436-1103


Cindy Butler, Executive Administrator

Neural Stem Cell Institute


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