A leg up

Israeli scientists use stem cells to help disabled rats walk again

Offering some hope to humans, Technion researchers implant engineered tissue into severed spinal chords, find more mobility in 42% of subjects, boosted response to stimuli in 75%

Rats, illustrative photo (YouTube screen capture)
Rats, illustrative photo (YouTube screen capture)

Israeli scientists at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have successfully used human stem cells to help paraplegic rats regain some walking ability and sensory perception, according to a newly published study. The success gives some potential hope to humans, the scientists said.

Technion researchers implanted engineered tissue fixed on a three dimensional scaffold into the severed spinal chords of test subjects. Contained within the tissue were human stem cells which had been induced to support neural growth.

According to the study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience magazine, three weeks after the transplants, 42 percent of the treated subjects showed an increased ability to support their weight and even walk. Seventy-five percent responded to external stimuli to their hind limbs and tail.

A control group of rats who were not treated with the stem cells showed no improvement over that same period.

Researchers said it was not yet clear why some rats responded to the treatment while others did not.

Dr. Shulamit Levenberg (Courtesy Technion)

“This warrants further investigation to shed light on the mechanisms underlying the observed recovery, to enable improved efficacy and to define the intervention optimal for treatment of spinal cord injury,” they said.

Lead researcher Dr. Shulamit Levenberg said, “Although there is still some way to go before it can be applied in humans, this research gives hope.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed