Science Questions

Can stem cells repair nerve damage?

Tue, 12th Nov 2013

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Danny asked:

Can you regrow the insulating sheath around nerve cells?


Chris -  Danny has got in touch from Facebook and hes saying, is it possible to regrow the myelin sheath around axons with stem cells?  So, in other Nerve_cellswords, the stem cells that you're finding how to re-activate, have you got evidence that you can in a human remyelinate damaged nerves?

Luke -   With our drug, we dont have the in vivo human data, of course, yet.  Well need clinical evaluation for that, but there is in vitro and in vivo data both in rodent and man that these stem cells are capable of repairing damaged axons and remyelinating.  So yes, there is data for that.

Hannah -   Thanks ever so much, Luke.  Alastair, I believe that you've been working with someone whos also working on regrowing myelin sheath.

Alastair -   Well, we read Lukes work recently in the journal Nature with great interest and its really fantastic that there are now agents being identified, albeit still in animal models, which have the potential to enhance remyelination.  So, as medical scientists, neurologists, were very optimistic that molecules, drugs if you like, will become available which can help the body to repair itself to improve, as we say, endogenous remyelination.  The anticholinergic drug that Luke discussed is one such, and there are others.  In our own university, here in Cambridge, Robin Franklin has identified some molecules which are in the same general family of improving endogenous remyelination.  I'm sure that these will gain interaction and make it to licenses in due course, but that will be a slow process.


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