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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019

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Stroke Drug Boosts Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury in Rats

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Four months after treating them, Yasuhiro Shiga, MD, PhD, checked on his rats. Walking into the lab, he carried minimal expectations. Treating spinal cord injuries with stem cells had been tried by many people, many times before, with modest success at best. The endpoint he was specifically there to measure — pain levels — hadn’t seemed to budge in past efforts.

“Well, it doesn’t seem to be working. I don’t see any real change in pain behavior in any of the groups,” said Shiga, a visiting scholar at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, apologetically, as he walked into the office of his supervisor, Wendy Campana, PhD, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Program in Neuroscience.

But, to Campana’s surprise, he continued, almost as an after-thought.

“Although … some rats are actually really moving.”  

The difference for those rats was this: Before delivering them into the spinal cord injury site, Shiga and Campana had conditioned stem cells with a modified form of tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug commonly used to treat non-hemorrhagic stroke.

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