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Central nervous system membrane a source.

Meninges, the membrane that envelops the central nervous system, is a potential source of self-renewing stem cells, indicate scientists studying the use of stem cells for treating spinal cord injuries. The research, published in Stem Cells, develops the understanding of cell activation in central nervous system injuries, advancing research into new treatments for spinal injuries and degenerative brain disorders.

The team focused their research on spinal cord injuries, caused when it is damaged by trauma rather than disease. Depending on the severity, a spinal injury can lead from pain to full paralysis, with high social and medical care costs. As the spinal cord lacks the ability to regenerate, the potential for patient recovery is severely limited.

"Our research offers the first evidence that the spinal cord meninges, the system of membranes which cover the surface of the brain and the spinal cord, contains stem cells which are capable of self-renewal and proliferation," explain authors Ilaria Decimo and Francesco Bifari of the University of Verona (Italy).

Following a spinal injury, meningeal cells increase in number and migrate to form glial scars, and the team believes the process explains part of the mechanism of stem cell activation in central nervous system diseases--a mechanism which could, in turn, be used for treatments. Decimo's team microdissected samples of spinal cord meninges, revealing that the cells contain crucial stem cell properties. It is these properties that increase following a spinal cord injury.

"Our research emphasizes the role of meninges cells in the reaction to spinal cord trauma and indicates for the first time that spinal cord meninges harbor stem cells which are activated by injury. Further testing could result in a strategic turnaround for advancing regenerative medicine for treating neurological disorders and spinal cord injuries."

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Title Annotation:Stem Cells; meninges
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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