Worldwide, there are about 500,000 new cases of spinal cord injury (SCI) each year. Most often, trauma from car accidents, slips, and falls, or post-operative complications is the root of the problem. SCI is still a disorder that primarily affects young individuals. The adult population is also experiencing an increase in new SCI instances because of low-energy trauma as our society ages more rapidly.
Loss of nerve tissue and subsequent loss of motor and sensory function are both effects of spinal cord injury (SCI). No treatment can guarantee an independent life by restoring the injury-induced loss of function.
Spinal injury treatment using stem cells or progenitor transplantation has shown great success. Self-renewal and the capability to develop into any type of cell in an organism are two traits that define stem cells.
Apart from helping in recovering from SCI, stem cell therapy has shown positive results in skeletal muscle injury as well.
A skeletal muscle is made up of several bundles of cells called muscle fibres that are encased in layers of connective tissue. The entire skeleton is covered in skeletal muscles, which give your body its shape. These muscles are controlled voluntarily, which means you have conscious control over what they do.
As a result, sportsmen frequently have muscular injuries. Skeletal muscle serves the human body by causing movement, stabilising joints, and producing heat. Even though muscle fibres can regenerate, the development of thick fibrotic scar tissue after the damage to muscles that compromises muscular function. However, advances in stem cell research have shown that stem cells can lessen fibrosis.
Role of Stem Cells in Skeletal Muscles and Spinal Cord Injuries
· Skeletal Muscles
Stem cells in the muscle tissue guard themselves to lessen fibrosis, or the accumulation of scar tissue. This property to prevent scarring can boost anti-aging qualities by maintaining muscles strong and effective. Patients with disorders that cause muscle wasting, such as muscular dystrophy, can also benefit from stem cell therapy.
· Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury is complicated because it involves numerous types of cell destruction. During the first few weeks following injury, the spinal cord’s environment undergoes a significant transformation. It is necessary to use a combination of medicines that are directed at the right targets and at the right time.
Animal studies have demonstrated that a stem cell or stem cell-derived cell transplant can aid in spinal cord healing by:
- Restoring the lost nerve cells brought on by the damage.
- Creating new support cells that will help the injured axons to heal by acting as a bridge and re-forming the insulating nerve sheath (myelin).
- Releasing protective compounds like growth factorsand soaking up pollutants like free radicals when delivered into the spinal cord soon after injury, prevents the cells at the injury site from suffering more harm.
- The destructive inflammation that can develop after the damage is suppressed to stop the injury from spreading.
How is Stem Cells Obtained?
Umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UCMSCs) are extracted from human umbilical cords. They exhibit a low level of immunoreactivity and are easily produced in vitro. They generate a variety of substances, including cytokines, growth factors, interleukins, BDNF, basal fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and neutrophil activators. These cells are believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, neurotrophic, and proangiogenic qualities when transplanted.
The foundation of stem cell therapy for spinal cord damage is mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They are multipotent progenitor cells that can be taken out of the umbilical cord, bone marrow, amniotic fluid, adipose tissue, etc. They also have a low immunoreactivity and tumorigenicity profile.
There are no proven and licenced stem cell treatments for spinal cord injuries at this time, even though stem cells are very helpful in research on spinal cord injuries and are starting to be evaluated in clinical studies. It is being researched how and which kinds of stem cells might be used in treatment in the future.
Stem cell therapy does provide therapeutic benefits for SCI and skeletal muscle injury. However alone stem cell therapy cannot show results. The patient also needs to undergo physiotherapy, take proper medication, and follow the doctor’s instructions. Several clinical trials are being done on stem cell therapy, and most of them have shown positive results.