Stem cell transplantation can promote functional restoration following acute spinal cord injury (injury time < 3 months), but the safety and long-term efficacy of this treatment need further exploration. In this study, 25 patients with traumatic spinal cord injury (injury time > 6 months) were treated with human umbilical cord blood stem cells via intravenous and intrathecal injection. The follow-up period was 12 months after transplantation. Results found that autonomic nerve functions were restored and the latent period of somatosensory evoked potentials was reduced. There were no severe adverse reactions in patients following stem cell transplantation. These experimental findings suggest that the transplantation of human umbilical cord blood stem cells is a safe and effective treatment for patients with traumatic spinal cord injury.
This study aimed to identify the optimal neural progenitor cell transplantation time for spinal cord injury in rats via the subarachnoid space. Cultured neural progenitor cells from 14-day embryonic rats, constitutively expressing enhanced green fluorescence protein, or media alone, were injected into the subarachnoid space of adult rats at 1 hour (acute stage), 7 days (subacute stage) and 28 days (chronic stage) after contusive spinal cord injury. Results showed that grafted neural progenitor cells migrated and aggregated around the blood vessels of the injured region, and infiltrated the spinal cord parenchyma along the tissue spaces in the acute stage transplantation group. However, this was not observed in subacute and chronic stage transplantation groups. O4- and glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive cells, representing oligodendrocytes and astrocytes respectively, were detected in the core of the grafted cluster attached to the cauda equina pia surface in the chronic stage transplantation group 8 weeks after transplantation. Both acute and subacute stage transplantation groups were negative for O4 and glial fibrillary acidic protein cells. Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan scale score comparisons indicated that rat hind limb locomotor activity showed better recovery after acute stage transplantation than after subacute and chronic transplantation. Our experimental findings suggest that the subarachnoid route could be useful for transplantation of neural progenitor cells at the acute stage of spinal cord injury. Although grafted cells survived only for a short time and did not differentiate into astrocytes or neurons, they were able to reach the parenchyma of the injured spinal cord and improve neurological function in rats. Transplantation efficacy was enhanced at the acute stage in comparison with subacute and chronic stages.