Erik Sundström group

Neural Cell Therapy and Repair

Research focus

Tissue sections through a 5.5 mm long branched cyst in a rat with post-traumatic syringomyelia.

The aim of our research is to develop cell therapy for spinal cord injury, in particular to treat post-traumatic syringomyelia (PTS). Persons with spinal cord injury may develop PTS many years after injury. Expanding cysts in the spinal cord tissue cause destruction of the nervous tissue, and further loss of motor and sensory functions, increased spasticity and chronic pain.

The surgical treatment is however too often not sufficient. Our hypothesis is that a better treatment can be achieved by combining surgery with transplantation of various types of stem cells. Our primary goal, and the main interest of the patients, is to develop a treatment by which stem cells injected in the area of the cysts - in conjunction with the surgical treatment - induce a permanent collapse of the cysts that prevents further cyst expansion. But our goal is also that the transplanted cells will replace the nerve cells that died after the spinal cord injury.


Transplanted nerve stem cells (green) have permanently obliterated most of a cyst in a rat with PTS.

The stem cells we use include several types of immature cells that can mature into various sorts of cells. To study which types of stem cells that are most useful as treatment, we isolate different cell types by cell sorting, study their maturation and how the fate of these cells can be controlled using factors present in immature tissue. The potential of these factors are then studied in transplantation experiments using a rat model of PTS that we have developed. If we are successful, the transplanted cells will mature into the cells that make up the circuitry of the spinal cord, that were lost after the spinal cord injury and during the expansion of PTS cysts. We believe this could lead to patients regaining important functions.

Group members

Erik Sundström

Principal researcher

Eva Wärdell

Affiliated to research

Tingting Xu

Affiliated to research

Selected scientific publications

Neuroprotective effects of human spinal cord-derived neural precursor cells after transplantation to the injured spinal cord.
Emgård M, Piao J, Aineskog H, Liu J, Calzarossa C, Odeberg J, et al
Exp Neurol 2014 Mar;253():138-45

Detailed expression analysis of regulatory genes in the early developing human neural tube.
Marklund U, Alekseenko Z, Andersson E, Falci S, Westgren M, Perlmann T, et al
Stem Cells Dev 2014 Jan;23(1):5-15

A sensitive and reliable test instrument to assess swimming in rats with spinal cord injury.
Xu N, Åkesson E, Holmberg L, Sundström E
Behav Brain Res 2015 Sep;291():172-183

Human neural progenitor cells in central nervous system lesions.
Åkesson E, Sundström E
Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2016 Feb;31():69-81

Wnt/β-Catenin Stimulation and Laminins Support Cardiovascular Cell Progenitor Expansion from Human Fetal Cardiac Mesenchymal Stromal Cells.
Månsson-Broberg A, Rodin S, Bulatovic I, Ibarra C, Löfling M, Genead R, et al
Stem Cell Reports 2016 Apr;6(4):607-617

Ascl1 Is Required for the Development of Specific Neuronal Subtypes in the Enteric Nervous System.
Memic F, Knoflach V, Sadler R, Tegerstedt G, Sundström E, Guillemot F, et al
J Neurosci 2016 Apr;36(15):4339-50

Fetal CD103+ IL-17-Producing Group 3 Innate Lymphoid Cells Represent the Dominant Lymphocyte Subset in Human Amniotic Fluid.
Marquardt N, Ivarsson MA, Sundström E, Åkesson E, Martini E, Eidsmo L, et al
J Immunol 2016 10;197(8):3069-3075

Expression of Pluripotency Markers in Nonpluripotent Human Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells.
Vincent PH, Benedikz E, Uhlén P, Hovatta O, Sundström E
Stem Cells Dev 2017 06;26(12):876-887

Transcription and Signaling Regulators in Developing Neuronal Subtypes of Mouse and Human Enteric Nervous System.
Memic F, Knoflach V, Morarach K, Sadler R, Laranjeira C, Hjerling-Leffler J, et al
Gastroenterology 2018 02;154(3):624-636

Differences in proliferation rate between CADASIL and control vascular smooth muscle cells are related to increased TGFβ expression.
Panahi M, Yousefi Mesri N, Samuelsson EB, Coupland KG, Forsell C, Graff C, et al
J Cell Mol Med 2018 06;22(6):3016-3024



Per Henrik Vincent, 2017: Specification and potency of neural stem cells for clinical transplantation

Ning Xu, 2015: Assessment of rat spinal cord injury models