Zhang group’s primitive neural stem cells show promise for spinal cord injury repair

‚ÄčIn the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Prof. Kang Zhang’s group, led by scientist Jiagang Zhao, demonstrate that primitive neural stem cells (pNSCs) derived from embryonic stem cells transplanted into injured rat spinal cord can differentiate into neurons and extend long axons through scar tissue. These results suggest that these cells may be better suited for spinal cord injury repair than neural stem cells derived from neural tissue, which tend to become a non-neuronal support cell, or more neurally committed cells, which tend not to extend axons into fiber-dense scars. Further, the neurons generated from pNSCs appeared to form structures that would allow communication with host spinal cord neurons. The group are currently examining whether these transplants restore motor function and sensory perception.

The method of generating pNSCs from embryonic stem cells was developed in 2010 by the Zhang group through their NIH Transformative-funded project and received widespread media attention.