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Neural stem cells are present in the adult human spinal cord
Jean-Philippe Hugnot (teacher-researcher at the University of Montpellier) Alain Privat (Inserm research director) Luc Bauchet (neurosurgeon) and their colleagues at Inserm Research Unit 583 have for the first time demonstrated the presence of neural precursor cells in the adult human spinal cord. The use of these stem cells for therapeutic purposes could potentially contribute to repairing the spinal cord of persons suffering from a traumatic injury, as well as in the case of a degenerative disease involving the motor neurons: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This work is published in The Journal of Neuroscience Research.
Some 40,000 people in France suffer from spinal cord injuries as a result of an accident. Each year there are 1,500 new cases of paraplegia or tetraplegia concerning for the most part 25-30 year-olds. The spinal cord is the part of the central nervous system that extends from the brain inside the spinal column. It ensures the proper working of an entire network of motor neurons that are vital not only to all our movements but also to the transmission of sensory signals and the control of visceral functions. Injuries affecting this neuron wiring are at the present time irreversible.
Researchers throughout the world are today subjecting stem cells to close scrutiny for their ability to differentiate in a given type of cell. They are in fact at the origin of all the cell types of the organism. These undifferentiated cells are present in the embryo. They are also present in the adult but are far less common and less pluripotent: adult stem cells present in tissue cannot, as a general rule, give a type of tissue other than their own.
The presence of neural stem cells in the brain and the spinal cord of adult rodents was shown several years ago, but it had not previously been possible, on the strength of current techniques, to detect such cells in the human spinal cord. Thanks to close cooperation with the Montpellier University Hospital and the Agence de Biomédecine, the researchers from Inserm have been able to work with tissues of excellent quality. Using techniques combining immunologic markers and electron microscopy, they have proved the presence of neural stem cells in the human adult spinal cord. Moreover, by cultivating these cells in vitro, the Inserm scientists have shown that the cells are capable of giving all the neuron cell types: neurons themselves but also glial cells (oligodendrocytes and astrocytes). Less known but just as important as the neurons, the glial cells provide nourishment and help to control neuronal activity. These precursor cells discovered in the spinal cord are of great therapeutic interest since they could compensate, via its use in gene therapy, for the neuronal and/or glial losses in traumatic lesions, neurodegenerative pathologies or those affecting the myelin sheath surrounding the neurons. Before therapeutic use can be envisaged, there is a need to explore the diversity of these cells and the details of their differentiation. "The therapeutic interest of so-called adult stem cells is now generally acknowledged by the scientific community. Although there is still a long way to go, this work constitutes a major step forward for all the pathologies affecting the motoneurons for which no treatment exists at the present time," says Alain Privat.
This research project on stem cells is being conducted within the framework of the European RESCUE consortium ("Research Endeavor for Spinal Cord in United Europe"), which seeks to indicate treatments for repairing spinal injuries responsible for paraplegia and tetraplegia.
Coordinated by Alain Privat, this project brings together 10 partners including the NEUREVA start-up in Montpellier and 6 European countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom). It is funded to the tune of EUR2.7 million as part of the 6th European Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
Adult human spinal cord harbours neural precursor cells that generate neurons and glial cells in vitro. C. Dromard (1), H. Guillon (1), V. Rigau (2), C. Ripoll (1), JC Sabourin (1), F Perrin (1), F Scamps (1),S Bozza (1), P. Sabatier (5), N Lonjon (1,5), H Duffau5, F. Vachiery-Lahaye (3), M. Prieto (1), C Tran Van Ba (1), L. Deleyrolle (1), A. Boularan (4), K. Langley (1), M. Gaviria (1), A. Privat (1), J.P. Hugnot (1), L.Bauchet (1,5,6) (1) Inserm U583, Physiopathologie et Thérapie des déficits sensoriels et moteurs, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier, Hôpital St ELOI, BP 74103 80, av Augustin Fliche 34091 Montpellier Cedex 05, France. (2) Service d'Anatomopathologie, CHU Montpellier, France. (3) Coordination hospitalière de prélèvement et Etablissement Français des Greffes, CHU Montpellier, France. (4) Département Anesthésie Réanimation C, CHU Montpellier, France. (5) Département de Neurochirurgie, CHU Montpellier, France. (6) Centre Propara Languedoc-Mutualité Montpellier, France J. Neurosc Res 2008 March 2008
Alain Privat Directeur de recherche Unité Inserm 583 email@example.com JP Hugnot Neural stem cell group Institut of Neuroscience of Montpellier Unité Inserm U583 firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 04 99 63 60 08