Experts Remove Bio-brake, Regenerate Spinal Cord
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11 August 2010
For the first time, scientists have regenerated spinal cord nerves by removing a "biological brake" on their growth – a breakthrough that raises hope for thousands of patients left paralysed by back and neck injuries.
Researchers at the Reeve–Irvine Research Centre in the US, focused on a protein that turns off the growth of nerve fibres in adults, using mice as test subjects. By genetically deleting the enzyme, they were able to switch the ability of the nerves to regenerate back on.
The scientists are now investigating whether the technique can restore movement to mice crippled by spinal cord injuries, the Daily Mail reported. Study leader Oswald Steward, from the University of California at Irvine, said: "Until now, such robust nerve regeneration has been impossible in the spinal cord. Paralysis and loss of function from spinal cord injury has been considered untreatable, but our discovery points the way towards a potential therapy to induce regeneration of nerve connections following spinal cord injury in people."
Steward is director of the Reeve–Irvine Research Centre, named after Christopher Reeve, the former ‘Superman’ star, who was paralysed neck down in a riding accident. It is dedicated to investigating treatments for spinal injury.