White Blood Cells Aid Nerve Regeneration: Ohio Study

Study: Cytokine polarized, alternatively activated bone marrow neutrophils drive axon regeneration.

In a new study, neuroscience experts at The Ohio State University discovered a unique form of human white blood cell with the ability to regenerate nerve fibers.

The study’s findings, published in the journal Nature Immunology, represent a significant advancement in medical science.

“Dying nerve cells are typically not replaced, and damaged nerve fibers do not normally regrow, leading to permanent neurological disabilities,” said corresponding and senior author Benjamin Segal, MD, professor and chair of the department of neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.

Segal’s team discovered that bone marrow cells can be converted into potent therapeutic agents. In the lab, the team was able to transform these cells into pro-regenerative cells that can aid damaged nerve cells survive and regrow.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop treatments using these special cells, to reverse damage in the optic nerve, brain, and spinal cord, thereby restoring lost neurological functions,” said Segal, who is also director of Ohio State’s Neuroscience Research Institute.

Nerve damage caused by spinal cord, optic nerve, or brain injuries, as well as degenerative neurological disorders like ALS, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis, was long thought to be irreversible. However, Segal’s research made a breakthrough in mice four years ago, giving hope to millions of people suffering from these disorders.

“Our new study shows that patients’ own cells can likely be used to deliver safe and effective treatments for these devastating conditions,” said co-first author Andrew Jerome, PhD, a member of Segal’s research team.

In a recent study, the researchers created pro-regenerative cells from the bone marrow of eight different human donors. Interestingly, cells from all eight donors successfully stimulated human nerve cells to rebuild nerve fibers. These cells also increased the survival rate of stressed nerve cells. This shows that they can reduce or stop the progression of degenerative neurological disorders, as well as reverse harm and restore function.

With the success of these lab experiments, our focus now shifts to bringing these new cell therapy treatments to the patients who need them. We believe these cells can be extracted from a patient, stimulated and grown to large numbers in the lab and reinfused at the site of injury or disease to regrow brain and spinal nerve fibers.”

Andrew Sas, MD, PhD, co-first author, assistant professor of neurology at Ohio State

Segal’s team is still pushing these breakthroughs ahead. The next step is to find the most efficient ways to generate and transport these cells so that clinical trials may commence. Segal stated that treatments that previously appeared unachievable for patients are now on the horizon.

For more information: Jerome, A. D., et al. (2024). Cytokine polarized, alternatively activated bone marrow neutrophils drive axon regeneration. Nature Immunologydoi.org/10.1038/s41590-024-01836-7.

Rachel Paul is a Senior Medical Content Specialist. She has a Masters Degree in Pharmacy from Osmania University. She always has a keen interest in medical and health sciences. She expertly communicates and crafts latest informative and engaging medical and healthcare narratives with precision and clarity. She is proficient in researching, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content and blogs.

more recommended stories