Spinal cord injuries are one of the most devastating and financially painful injuries that currently affects approximately 276,000 individuals in the United States alone. The medical costs for these patients can be astronomical with many spending up to a million in the first year of their injury.
As a result, the scientific and medical communities are constantly researching what can be done to find better solutions for these individuals.
Recently the Gladstone Institute – a facility made up of scientists whose main objective is to “use visionary science and technology to overcome major unsolved diseases” – created a special type of neuron generated from human stem cells. The scientists transplanted these cells into mice and the interneurons sprouted and integrated with other cells. The cells are called “V2A interneurons” and they help transmit signals in the spinal cord and control movement.
Basically, these interneurons relay signals from the brain to the spinal cord where they connect with motor neurons that project out into the arms and legs.
According to senior author Todd McDevitt, PhD, a senior investigator at Gladstone and a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California in San Francisco:
“Interneurons can reroute after spinal cord injuries, which makes them a promising therapeutic target. Our goal is to rewire the impaired circuitry by replacing damaged interneurons to create new pathways for signal transmission around the site of the injury.”
Time will tell if this scientific breakthrough can truly benefit spinal cord injury patients.