Press Release: Neuralstem Cells Survive and Become Neurons in Rats With Spinal Injuries
Neuralstem Cells Survive and Become Neurons in Rats With Spinal Injuries Human neural stem cells (hNSCs) transplanted into rats with spinal cord damage turned into neurons and made extensive synaptic contact with damaged host motor neurons, a paper published today in PLoS MEDICINE ROCKVILLE, MD, USA | Feb 13, 2007 | Human neural stem cells (hNSCs) transplanted into rats with spinal cord damage turned into neurons and made extensive synaptic contact with damaged host motor neurons, a paper published today in PLoS MEDICINE http://medicine.plosjournals.org) reported. The study, utilizing cells developed by Neuralstem, Inc. , and conducted at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, led researchers to conclude that the restoration of spinal cord circuitry may be more realistic than previously thought. "The spinal cord has previously been considered inhospitable for neural stem cell transplants," commented Dr. Karl Johe, Scientific Founder and Chairman of Neuralstem and a co-author of the study. "They either didn't survive well or didn't make contact with the surrounding tissue. However, the results here disprove that notion. The high quality of neuronal differentiation and synaptic contact was consistent across different kinds of spinal cord injuries. When combined with our earlier spinal cord work in rats with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), we now believe that the spinal cord is an effective site for therapeutic stem cell intervention." "Never before have we seen such a massive differentiation of stem cells into neurons in the spinal cord," said Dr. Vassilis Koliatsos, of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the study's lead investigator. "This turns on its head the dogma that the spinal cord isn't an effective environment for turning stem cells into neurons. Additionally, a significant number of these neurons went on to engage in synaptic relationships with the host neurons. To what extent these contacts are functional synapses or signify structural integration into the host circuitry must be ascertained with additional studies," Koliatsos cautioned. "Neuralstem is a second generation stem cell company, built primarily to optimize our discovery of neural stem cells, and take them into the clinic and into patients," said Neuralstem CEO, Richard Garr. "We believe, as this study demonstrates, that our technology answers many of the issues that have held the field back, and makes it possible to build a stem cell company around a true product focus. We expect to initiate human clinical trials to treat Ischemic Spastic Paraplegia (ISP) with our cells in 2007," he concluded. About the Study 37 "nude" (immune-deficient) rats with surgically damaged spines were transplanted with hNSCs two weeks after injury. After six months, researchers found that the grafted cells had increased in number 3- to 4-fold; had differentiated into a significant population of neurons; and migrated to both gray and white matter, depending upon the original transplantation site. A significant amount of the neurons were GABAergic, and these appeared to establish contact with the host (rat) cholinergic neurons. The connection between cholinergic and GABAergic neurons is a necessary part of healthy motor function. From this, researchers concluded that these hNSCs could be grafted into rat spinal cords under a variety of injury conditions and robustly differentiate into neurons that go on to form synaptic contacts with the neuronal circuitry of the host. About Neuralstem Neuralstem's patent-protected technology enables, for the first time, the ability to produce neural stem cells of the human brain and spinal cord in commercial quantities, and the ability to control the differentiation of these cells into mature, physiologically relevant human neurons and glia. The Company's technology was invented by founding scientist, Karl Johe, Ph.D. while at the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke, at the National Institutes of Health. The Company expects that its first Investigational New Drug (IND) application will be for the treatment of Ischemic Spastic Paraplegia, a form of paraplegia that sometimes results from the surgery to repair aortic aneurysms and for which there is no effective treatment. The Company hopes to submit its initial IND application to the FDA and begin its first human trial during calendar year 2007. Major Central Nervous System diseases targeted by the Company with research programs currently underway include: Ischemic Spastic Paraplegia, Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury, ALS, and Parkinson's Disease. The company has also developed immortalized human neural stem cells for in-vitro use in drug development for the academic and pharmaceutical markets. The company's cells recently extended the life of rats with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in a paper published in the journal TRANSPLANTATION, and were deemed viable for continued work in neurodegenerative spinal conditions. For further information, please visit http://www.neuralstem.com. This press release contains forward-looking statements. Neuralstem wishes to caution the readers of this press release that actual results may differ from those discussed in the forward-looking statements and may be adversely affected by, among other things, US FDA responses, and responses from other jurisdictions, to various regulatory submissions; SEC responses to various registration submissions; changes in corporate strategy; the need to raise additional capital; the success or failure of other private and public organizations and/or academic and corporate institutions engaged in stem cell research and development, and the market for stem cell research in general. For further information, please review the company's SB-2 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and its 10-Q for the quarter ending September 30, 2006. CONTACT: Company Contact: Richard Garr, President of Neuralstem Inc.,+1-301-366-4960; or Media: Deanne Eagle of Planet Communications,+1-917-837-5866, for Neuralstem Inc.; or Investors: Ira Weingarten,+1-805-897-1880, or Steve Chizzik, +1-908-688-9111, both of EquityCommunications for Neuralstem Inc.