Spinal Cord Injury Research Makes Major Advance

LA JOLLA – Spinal cord injury researchers from UC San Diego have announced a major advance in reconnecting nerve endings, which could lead to the reverse of paralysis in patients. The findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Performing experiments on rats, scientists at the UCSD School of Medicine have, for the first time, successfully reconnected severed axons – parts of nerve cells that conduct electrical impulses. Using a nervous system growth factor called neuroptophin, researchers were able to guide severed axon endings to a correct paired axon ending and bond. This bonding formed electrical connections called synapses.

A recent survey by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation found that 1.275 million Americans have suffered a spinal cord injury, and more than 5.6 million Americans live with some form of paralysis.

“The ability to guide regenerating axons to a correct target after spinal cord injury has always been a point of crucial importance in contemplating translation of regeneration therapies to humans,” senior author Dr. Mark Tuszynski, director of UCSD’s Center for Neural Repair. “While our findings are very encouraging in this respect, they also highlight the complexity of restoring function in the injured spinal cord.”

The experiment’s success was not totally complete. Though the regenerated axons could be precisely guided to their targets and form synapses, the resulting connections did not work. But while it is a long-road to a successful treatment for spinal cord injury, researchers see these latest findings as a large step.

Source: San Diego Union Tribune

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