Cell therapy for spinal cord injuries: what is really going on? Academic Article uri icon


  • During the last two decades, many experiments have examined the ability of cell transplants to ameliorate the loss of function after spinal cord injuries, with the hope of developing interventions to benefit patients. Although many reports suggest positive effects, there is growing concern over the quality of the available preclinical data. It is therefore important to ask whether this worldwide investigative process is close to defining a cell transplant protocol that could be translated into human patients with a realistic chance of success. This review systematically examines the strength of the preclinical evidence and outlines mechanisms by which transplanted cells may mediate their effects in spinal cord injuries. First, we examined changes in voluntary movements in the forelimb associated with cell transplants after partial cervical lesions. Second, we examined the efficacy of transplanted cells to restore electrophysiological conduction across a complete thoracic lesion. We postulated that cell therapies found to be successful in both models could reasonably have potential to treat human patients. We conclude that although there are data to support a beneficial effect of cell transplantation, most reports provide only weak evidence because of deficits in experimental design. The mechanisms by which transplanted cells mediate their functional effects remain unclear.

published proceedings

  • Neuroscientist

altmetric score

  • 2.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Granger, N., Franklin, R., & Jeffery, N. D.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Granger, Nicolas||Franklin, Robin JM||Jeffery, Nick D

publication date

  • December 2014