When researchers first began to learn more about stem cells, their potential seemed unlimited. But first researchers had to find a supply of these cells for therapeutic use. That took time, but eventually, scientists learned how to reprogram adult cells so they had the potential to become any cell type, as stem cells. A steady supply has now allowed the research to begin to reach its potential, in areas like regenerative therapeutics.
One recent breakthrough has enabled paralyzed rats to walk once again. A spinal cord injury was simulated with a cut, and scientists led by Dr. Shulamit Levenberg at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology then implanted human stem cells into those rats. Additional work was required; a scaffold was built, chemical treatments were added, but eventually, 75 percent of the rats responded to stimuli to their hind legs, and 42 percent could support weight on those legs. The work illustrates the incredible possibilities of stem cells.
"Although there is still some way to go before it can be applied in humans, this research gives hope," said Dr. Levenberg.