Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a traumatic disorder resulting in a functional deficit that usually leads to severe and permanent paralysis. After the initial insult to the spinal cord, additional structure and function are lost through an active and complex secondary process. Since there is not effective treatment for SCI, several strategies including cellular, pharmacological and rehabilitation therapies have been approached in animal models. Some of them have been proved in clinical trials. In this review we focus on the current state of cell therapies, particularly on cells from adult origin, assayed in preclinical research. Cell types used in SCI therapy include Schwann cells, olfactory ensheathing cells and adult stem cells, such as neural stem cells, umbilical cord blood derived cells, mesenchymal stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells. There are not yet conclusive evidences on which types of glial or adult stem cells are most effective in SCI treatment. Their ability to incorporate into the damaged spinal cord, to differentiate into neural lineages, to exert neuroprotective effects, to promote regeneration of damaged axons, and to improve functional deficits are still discussed, before translation towards clinical use, as a single therapy or in combination with other strategies.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, schwann cells, olfactory ensheathing cells, neural stem cells, umbilical cord blood cells, mesenchymal stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, glial scar, regeneration, cell transplantation, neurodegeneration, neuroprotection, chronic lesion, secondary injury