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Ohio State Researchers Identify Cell That Could Help Treat Nerve Damage

Dr. Benjamin Segal (left) and Dr. Andrew Sas in the lab at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
OSU Wexner Medical Center
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Dr. Benjamin Segal (left) and Dr. Andrew Sas in the lab at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Researchers at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center have discovered an immune cell in mice that could unlock new therapies to repair or even regrow damaged nerves in humans. 

The discovery, scientists say, could one day lead to treatments for degenerative diseases like ALS or multiple sclerosis, as well as some traumatic injuries.

Dr. Benjamin Segal leads Ohio State's Department of Neurology, and he explains nerve cells don’t typically divide, which leaves doctors with few options once they’re damaged.

“This immune cell actually produces growth factors that promotes the survival of sick nerve cells and also stimulates new fibers to grow," Segal says.

Also promising, Segal says, is how broadly applicable the cell appears to be.

“This immune cell can stimulate new nerve fiber growth in the optic nerve, but we’ve also shown that it works in the spinal cord to stimulate new nerve fiber growth following traumatic injury to the spinal cord," he says.

His team’s experiments so far have shown progress in mice, and researchers have observed a similar reaction from isolated human cells in the lab. Their study is published in the journal Nature Immunology.