Study: Cell Therapy Could Treat SCI Side Effects

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have successfully used cell therapy to treat serious spinal cord injury side effects in mice.

Scientists transplanted immature human neurons into mice with spinal cord injuries and discovered the neurons were able to work with the damaged spinal cords to reduce neuropathic pain and to improve bladder control and function.

The study was published in the Sept. 22 edition of Cell Stem Cell.

Researchers said they focused on a way to reduce chronic pain and improve bladder function because many people with spinal cord injuries noted that those side effects deeply impacted their lives. The scientists involved in the study are now working on moving toward clinical trials.

In a UCSF news announcement, co-senior author Arnold Kriegstein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of developmental and stem cell biology, said, “This is an important proof of principle for using cell therapy to repair damaged neural tissue. It brings us one step closer to using such transplants to bring much-needed relief to people with spinal cord injuries.”

Mice treated with neuron therapy showed fewer indications of chronic pain and also showed improved bladder function three and six months after the neuron transplants.

Researchers noted that bladder control and chronic pain are very significant issues for a number of people with spinal cord injuries.

Co-senior author Linda Noble-Haeusslein, Ph.D, chair of neurological surgery and professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation at UCSF, said, “The field has been very focused on restoring patients’ ability to walk, perhaps because that’s often their most visible impairment.” But she pointed out that a 2004 survey of people with spinal cord injuries showed that more of them defined bladder control as their highest priority for treatment. Fewer survey respondents said walking was a higher priority.

“That study suggested that we had really missed the boat as a field,” said Noble-Haeusslein. “It caused us to dramatically shift what we do in the lab.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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