Mapping how the spinal cord is formed provides new knowledge about diseases of the nervous system

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University, KTH and Uppsala University have mapped how cells in the human spinal cord are formed in the embryo and which genes control this development. This could lead to new knowledge about how injuries and diseases in the spinal cord occur and how they can be treated.

Photo: Christoffer Mattsson Langseth.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience and was co-authored by researchers Mats Nilsson, Paulo Czarnewski, Christoffer Mattsson Langseth and Hower Lee, all at the Stockholm University Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

The spinal cord is a central part of the nervous system and sends information between the brain and the body. The spinal cord develops in the human embryo and in it there are a variety of cells, which are formed from stem cells. The development from stem cells to cells is influenced by how different genes co-operate in the process.

- Many neurodegenerative diseases and injuries to the spinal cord are incurable because cells in the human spinal cord do not regenerate to any great extent. Increased understanding of how the spinal cord is formed and how different genes control this development can lead to new treatments for spinal cord injuries and diseases such as ALS or cancer of the nervous system, says the study's first author Xiaofei Li, assistant lecturer at the Department of Neurobiology, Health Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet.

In the study, the researchers looked more precisely at how this development takes place and made a map of the cells in the spinal cord and the genes that control development. This has then been compiled into an interactive online tool that researchers, but also others, can use to search for the genes that influence spinal cord development. The overview can be helpful in the creation of new treatments for diseases and provide a deeper understanding of spinal cord injuries.

The researchers have also studied an unusual tumor called ependymoma and identified which genes stand out in tumor development. The findings in the study can be helpful regarding knowledge about similar diseases of the nervous system.

Read the press release from Karolinska Institutet

Mapping how the spinal cord is formed provides new knowledge about diseases of the nervous system


“Profiling spatiotemporal gene expression of the developing human spinal cord and implications for ependymoma origin” Xiaofei Li, Zaneta Andrusivova, Paulo Czarnewski, Christoffer Mattsson Langseth, Alma Andersson, Yang Liu, Daniel Gyllborg, Emelie Braun, Ludvig Larsson, Lijuan Hu, Zhanna Alekseenko, Hower Lee, Christophe Avenel, Helena Kopp Kallner, Elisabet Åkesson, Igor Adameyko, Mats Nilsson, Sten Linnarsson, Joakim Lundeberg, Erik Sundström. Nature Neuroscience, online 24 April 2023, doi: 10.1038/s41593-023-01312-9.