Friday, December 10, 2010

Researchers Successfully Treat Monkey's Spinal Injury with Stem Cells

A Keio University professor said Tuesday a monkey became able to walk again through stem cell treatment although it was once paralyzed from the neck down after incurring a spinal injury.

It is the first success the team has had with a paralyzed monkey through use of so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, while the team had a mouse recover from a spinal injury in the past, said professor Hideyuki Okano.

The group's achievement is said to be the first of its kind.

"We intend to use safer, better-quality iPS cells in our experiments so that clinical trials of the treatment method (on humans) will become possible," said Okano, speaking at a meeting of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan in Kobe.

The team planted four types of genes into human skin cells using a virus as a vehicle to create iPS cells, which were then turned into neural precursor cells.

The cells were transplanted into a marmoset, on which a spinal injury was inflicted nine days before. Within about six weeks, the animal became able to stand on its feet and walk around, according to Okano.

The monkey did not develop cancer after three months' observation, he added.

There is a chance that iPS cells or transplanted new cells derived from the iPS cells will become cancerous, posing a major challenge for stem cell treatment.

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