Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts the long axonal tracts of the spinal cord leading to devastating loss of function. Cell transplantation in the injured spinal cord has the potential to lead to recovery after SCI via a variety of mechanisms. One such strategy is the formation of neuronal relays between injured long tract axons and denervated neurons. The idea of creating a neuronal relay was first proposed over 25 years ago when fetal tissue was first successfully transplanted into the injured rodent spinal cord. Advances in labeling of grafted cells and the development of neural stem cell culturing techniques have improved the ability to create and refine such relays. Several recent studies have examined the ability to create a novel neuronal circuit between injured axons and denervated targets. This approach is an alternative to long-distance regeneration of damaged axons that may provide a meaningful degree of recovery without direct recreation of lost pathways. This brief review will examine the contribution of fetal grafting to current advances in neuronal grafting. Of particular interest will be the ability of transplanted neurons derived from fetal grafts, neural precursor cells and neural stem cells to reconnect long distance motor and sensory pathways of the injured spinal cord. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Spinal cord injury.
Bonner, J. F., & Steward, O. (2015). Repair of spinal cord injury with neuronal relays: From fetal grafts to neural stem cells. Brain Research, 1619, 115–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2015.01.006