Cell discovery may be key to treating currently incurable neurological diseases

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Dr. Benjamin Segal (left) and Dr. Andrew Sas examine the properties of a newly-discovered cell in a lab at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. This immune cell has the potential to treat neurological conditions long believed to be incurable, including multiple sclerosis, ALS and spinal cord injuries.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WEHT) For the millions of people suffering from a neurological condition, the devastating effects have long been believed to be irreversible. A discovery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center provides new hope for recovery from degenerative neurological diseases — such as ALS and multiple sclerosis — as well as from damage caused by traumatic brain and spine injuries and stroke.

The cell discovered by these researchers is a type of white blood cell that not only prevents nerve cell death, but partially reverses nerve fiber damage and promotes nervous system repair. Study findings are published in the journal Nature Immunology.

“This immune cell subset secretes growth factors that enhance the survival of nerve cells following traumatic injury to the central nervous system. It stimulates severed nerve fibers to regrow in the central nervous system, which is really unprecedented,” said Dr. Benjamin Segal, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at The Ohio State College of Medicine and co-director of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.

The next step is to harness this cell and grow it in a lab to enhance its healing effects. Researchers hope these cells can then be injected into patients to improve function and mobility and slow or stop degenerative decline.

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(This story was originally published on November 29, 2020)

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