Repair of the damaged cord with stem cell implants is an exciting therapeutic development but its potential is currently limited by the formation of scar tissue within the injury.
The Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF) lab, here in Auckland, New Zealand, has recently developed a method to express a “scar busting” enzyme within the injured cord which along with exercise rehabilitation leads to improved outcomes. The aim is to combine the gene therapy approach with the addition of stem cells to promote recovery.
PhD student, Connor Clemett, has started a project to combine this approach with cell therapy. Connor will inject cells into the injured cord that wrap around the nerve cells and improve the connection with other cells. This approach aims to make the new connections that occur stronger, leading to even better outcomes. In future we hope to use a new technology where we can grow these cells from an injured persons skin cells and, by using their own cells, increase the chance that such an approach will be successful.