CIRM grantees at UCI collaborate on Swiss spinal cord injury trial

More good news for people with spinal cord injury out of the University of California, Irvine: two CIRM grantees collaborated with Palo Alto-based StemCells Inc. to develop a neural stem cell therapy that has been approved for a trial in Switzerland.

Brian Cummings and Aileen Anderson did the preclinical work on the possible treatment, which will be tested in people with chronic spinal cord injury. Their colleague at UCI Hans Keirstead did the preclinical work on a possible embryonic stem cell treatment for acute injury, which Geron is now testing in a clinical trial.

A press release from UCI discusses the team’s approach:

Their efforts have shown how these cells, when transplanted into damaged spinal columns, can differentiate into neural tissue cells – such as oligodendrocytes and early neurons – and migrate to injury sites. In recent studies, the researchers found that the treatment restored hind-limb function in mice when transplanted in the early chronic period after spinal cord injury.

CIRM funds research in spinal cord injury that includes embryonic, iPS and adult stem cells with the idea that we won’t know which approach works best until we see the clincal trial results. You can see a list of funded spinal cord injury awards.

The work that led to this clinical trial took place before CIRM funding became available. CIRM is now funding follow-up research by Cummings and Anderson that could lead to advances on the Swiss trial.

Oswald Steward, who directs the Reeve-Irvine Research Center where Anderson, Cummings and Keirstead all conduct research and is a member of the CIRM governing board helped create this video about stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury. Thanks also to Roman Reed, who talks about living with spinal cord injury.