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Immune Cell Discovery Provides New Hope For Recovery From Degenerative Neurological Diseases

OSU Medical Center

Researchers in Columbus and Ann Arbor, Michigan say a cell discovery shows potential for unprecedented recovery from many brain and spine diseases and injuries.

Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan have discovered a new immune cell that helps rescue dying nerve cells and stimulates surviving nerve cells to grow new fibers. Doctor Benjamin Segal chairs the Department of Neurology at OSU's College of Medicine and co-directs the Medical Center’s Neurological Institute. He says the cell provides new hope for recovery from degenerative neurological diseases including ALS and multiple sclerosis as well as damage caused by traumatic brain and spine injuries and stroke. 

"It's an immature cell that arises from the bone marrow and then migrates to sites of damage in the nervous system where it has this beneficial, therapeutic effect," Dr. Segal continued. "So far, we have found this unique immune cell is effective in promoting the survival and regeneration of nerve fibers across different types of nerve cells. I treat patients who have permanent neurological deficits, and they have to deal with a whole range of symptoms every day. The idea of being able to restore neurological function is really amazing."

Credit Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Mark and Brenda Zimmer spend time together at their Lewis Center, Ohio home. Mark was diagnosed with ALS two years ago.

It's encouraging news for Lewis Center resident Mark Zimmer, whose ALS diagnosis came two years ago. Zimmer has been active in clinical research to find effective treatments. 

"Once you think you're okay and can live with this, that's when ALS takes something else away from you," Zimmer said. "It becomes that more strenuous and difficult. We're finally starting to see that this disease can be solved. It's just going to require charity from everybody. Faith, hope, and charity is what's going to get the job done with these researchers."

Researchers made the discovery using a mouse model, so the next step involves harnessing and growing the cell in a lab to enhance its healing effects. They hope the cells can then be injected into patients to improve function and mobility and slow or stop degenerative decline. Study findings are published in the journal Nature Immunology.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.
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