Spinal cord injury (SCI) usually results in severe functional impairment, and SCI repair is still a major clinical challenge. Engaging in SCI repair for a long period, Dr. Jianwu Dai’s group in Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has made lots of important progress in neural regeneration through studies on various rodent and canine SCI models.
Neural stem cells (NSCs) transplantation is regarded as a promising therapeutic strategy to treat severe SCI by compensating the neuronal loss. However, significant challenges including long-term survival, directed neuronal differentiation, and functional integration of the transplanted NSCs and their progenies within the host spinal cord are yet to be solved. In a recently published paper of Dr. Dai’s group, they trained NSCs on differently modified collagen scaffolds to increase their neuronal differentiation rate when cultured under the simulated SCI microenvironment. Then, they screened out a functionalized scaffold, on which the cultured NSCs showed high neuronal differentiation rate and generate both sensory and motor mature neurons. Subsequently, the functionalized scaffold with NSCs was transplanted into a rat severe SCI model. The repair results show that higher endogenous neurogenesis efficiency as well as in vivo survival and neuronal differentiation rate of the grafted NSCs were observed. Moreover, both sensory and motor neurons were found to be differentiated from the grafted NSCs in the lesion site and those newly generated neurons can functionally interact with each other and the host neurons. Taken together, the in vitro training systems for modulating the differentiation profiles of NSCs are instructive and exhibit strong potentials for SCI
The corresponding research article was published online in Advanced Functional Materials (doi:1 0.1002/adfm.201601521) on June 9th, 2016. Co-first authors of this work were Dr. Xing Li, Sumei Liu and Prof. Yannan Zhao. This work was supported by grants from the “Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences” (Grant No. XDA01030000).
By Li Xing