This article has some very promising results. I haven’t read the paper in detail, but here’s the executive summary. Human neural stem cells (hNSCs) were injected into mice that received a precision contusion (laminectomy) injury at spinal level T9. Control groups had vehicle and human fibroblast cell injections after receiving the same injury.
The group receiving hNSCs showed a significant functional recovery from the vehicle group. The fibroblast group did not. Then, to prove that the functional recovery was due to the new neurons and glia from the hNSC, the investigators injected the recovered mice with diptheria toxin, which affects human neurons while essentially leaving mouse neurons alone. After the toxin injection, the recovered mice with hNSC regressed back to the same behavioral performance as the vehicle group. That is, the functional recovery reversed after selective de-activation of the hNSC-derived neurons.
Additionally, the hNSCs produced both neurons and oligodendrocytes (myelin producers) in the mice. Through EM, it was verified the hNSC-derived neurons formed synapses with endogenous mouse neurons.
Amazing. Work like this shows how genetically similar mouse and human neurons (well, at least spinal cord neurons) must be. And, with regard to the race to understand and control stem cell development, this provides further evidence of how strongly the local environment can influence differentiation.