Elisabet Åkesson Research
Our interest is central nervous system lesions including spinal cord injury and treatment strategies to counteract neurodegenerative processes. We utilize different unique model systems to evaluate human spinal cord injury processes and allogeneic responses to human neural cell therapy.
We perform organotypic spinal cord slice cultures as well as co-cultures including human neural cells, glial cell populations and/or human peripheral blood mononuclear cells to follow spinal cord injury processes and interactions between the injured spinal cord and potential donor neural cells.
We have the opportunity to compare human neural cells of various origin and from stem cell stage to more differentiated phenotypes concerning their immunocompetence and potential in neural cell therapy.
The laboratory is located in Novum at Karolinska Institutets South Campus in Huddinge.
Erik Sundström Research
The aim of our experimental research is to use various types of stem cells to develop new treatments for spinal cord injuries. We have a particular interest in post-traumatic syringomyelia, a condition appearing years after the injury in some persons with spinal cord injury. In this situation cysts are formed in the spinal cord, cysts that expand, cause further destruction of the nerve tissue, and lead to worsening of the paralysis, sensory loss and spasticity, often combined with difficult pain problems.
The success rate of the surgical treatment of post-traumatic syringomyelia is insufficient in many clinics. We believe that the outcome of surgery can be improved significantly by combining it with transplantation of stem cells. The goal is that the neural stem cells injected into the cysts will obliterate the cysts, thereby eliminating them and the progress of the condition. We also want to achieve a regeneration of some of the nerve cells that were lost, recreating local nerve circuits and regaining lost functions.
Stem cells used in spinal cord research typically constitute an undefined mixture of different cell types, and it is often not known what types of nerve cells they will develop into after transplantation. To investigate what cell types that are most efficient for various applications, we isolate different subtypes of stem cells, we study in culture to what degree they are specified to become certain nerve cells, and how exposure to some factors can be used to control their development. We then use transplantation experiments to determine if these cells will be an efficient treatment of spinal cord injury. Our goal is that the transplanted cells develop into the types of nerve cells that constitute the local spinal circuits and were lost after the spinal cord injury.
We also investigate the possibility to monitor transplanted cells in a patient. The techniques available for research have significant limitations, and are not suitable for use in human patients. We develop new methods using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). These techniques may be used to follow the fate of stem cells transplanted to the injured spinal cord, and also for other types of cell therapy.