Spinal cord regeneration following cellular transplantation: actions and mechanisms of olfactory ensheathing glia

Spinal cord injury results in devastating, permanent consequences for the injured individual when the nerve cells that form the spinal cord and connect the brain to the muscles of the body fail to regenerate. One of the most promising therapies for nerve cell regeneration is transplantation of olfactory ensheathing cells, which are involved in our ability to smell and help nerve cells in the olfactory system to continually regenerate. Research has focused on the transplantation potential of olfactory ensheathing cells, which form a protective layer around nerve cells and also play a role in regulating their function. Restoration of some motor functions has been reported following transplantation of these cells, but the mechanisms by which this occurs is not understood. Further, only some spinal cord injuries respond to this treatment and the reason for that is also unknown. Miranda Richter is studying nerve cell growth in vivo and in vitro to determine the intrinsic differences between different tracts of the spinal cord in their responsiveness to ensheathing cells. This will enable her to understand what mechanisms are used by ensheathing cells to promote nerve cell growth. By dissecting the mechanisms of this action, her research may contribute to the development of a more effective treatment for spinal cord injury.