Spina bifida is a condition in which a portion of the spinal cord and its surrounding structures develop outside, instead of inside, the body. Fetal surgery to repair this defect is available but follow-up studies have shown limited improvement on spinal cord function.
Boston Children’s Hospital surgeon Dario Fauza, MD, an affiliate member of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and his team recently published encouraging results in delivering neural stem cells to the spinal cord in addition to surgical repair in an animal model of spina bifida. Neural stem cells are known to aid in the repair of nerve tissue. In the study, the delivered cells populated the damaged areas of the spinal cord and produced substances that protected the local tissue. Further studies will seek to advance this new therapeutic approach. READ MORE
In Children’s Department of Urology, Carlos Estrada, MD, has been working with embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to develop a treatment for the bladder dysfunction that is common in spina bifida. Using a tissue engineering approach, Estrada’s lab has successfully used these stem cells to recreate the specialized muscle and epithelial cells of the bladder, and is using them for bladder augmentation and reconstruction in mice.