01975-A: Development of a Technique to Treat Nerve and Spinal Cord Damage Through Transplantation of Cells That Support the Repair of Damaged Neurons

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $12,960
Natasha J Olby, VetMB PhD; North Carolina State University
August 1, 2013 - July 31, 2014

Sponsor(s): French Bulldog Club of America, Golden Retriever Foundation

Breed(s): -All Dogs
Research Program Area: Neurology
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Severe injuries to both the central and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS) often result in an incomplete recovery because of failure of regeneration of nerve processes (axons) and loss of myelin, the fatty layer that surrounds axons, helping them to conduct messages. Schwann cells produce myelin in the PNS, and produce an environment conducive to axonal regeneration. There has long been interest in using Schwann cell transplants to enhance recovery both in the PNS and CNS. Indeed, they have been transplanted into models of brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury experimentally since the 1980s with no reports of adverse effects and numerous reports of benefit. Clinical trials using Schwann cell transplants in spinal cord injury have recently been started in humans in the USA. In order to translate experimental research into clinical practice, it is necessary to optimize culture techniques to allow rapid expansion of pure Schwann cell populations from patients. In this project, Dr. Olby will take peripheral nerve biopsies from the back of the neck in dogs. These nerves are readily accessible, and can be transected without any consequences for the patient. She will use a magnetic bead based technique to separate and purify the Schwann cells from the nerve biopsies, and will compare two different culture conditions to identify the most effective means of expanding the population. Using these techniques will develop a protocol to isolate and expand canine Schwann cells for cell based therapies in patients with nerve and spinal cord damage.


Lim, J.-H., & Olby, N. J. (2016). Generation of pure cultures of autologous Schwann cells by use of biopsy specimens of the dorsal cutaneous branches of the cervical nerves of young adult dogs. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 77(10), 1166–1174. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.77.10.1166

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