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Lancet Neurol. 2006 May;5(5):453-7.

Olfactory ensheathing cells: ripples of an incoming tide?

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  • 1Spinal Repair Unit, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London, UK.


Until now, brain and spinal cord injuries that sever nerve fibres have resulted in a degree of incurable functional loss. An incoming tide of research is now beginning to challenge this as yet unbreached sea wall. One of the most promising approaches involves a recently discovered type of cell, the olfactory ensheathing cell, which can be obtained from the adult nasal lining. In animal models transplantation of cultured olfactory ensheathing cells into an injured spinal cord induces regeneration, remyelination of severed spinal nerve fibres, and functional recovery. Although several clinical centres worldwide have shown an interest in applying this approach to patients with spinal cord injury, there is no agreement on cell technology, and claims of beneficial results lack independent confirmation. Important aspects still need to be worked out at the laboratory level. Overall, the outlook is optimistic, but there is still some way to go.

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