News / Health

New Findings Could Lead to Spinal Cord Repair

Jessica Berman
Individuals who are paralyzed due to spinal cord injury have little hope of being able to walk again.  Two new studies, however, raise hopes that it may some day be possible to restore movement by coaxing the regeneration of nerves within the central nervous system.  

In the first study, British and German researchers identified a chemical mechanism by which they were able to stimulate the re-growth of damaged nerve fibers in the central nervous system, or CNS, of mice.  They found that a protein called PCAF appears to be essential for nerve regeneration after studying peripheral nerves in cell culture.  The peripheral nervous system is involved in sensation and some muscle movement outside the CNS.  

Damaged axons in the central nervous system make no effort at repair, but experts say about 30 percent of damaged peripheral nerves regenerate, in many cases partially restoring function.  The PCAF protein signals a series of chemical and so-called epigenetic events that promote the re-growth of these nerves.  Epigenetic processes do not alter DNA.

Scientists injected PCAF into mice with damaged spinal cords.  They describe in an article in Nature Communications how the protein switched on a repair mechanism, causing new CNS nerve fibers to sprout.

Lead researcher Simone Di Giovanni of Imperial College London’s Department of Medicine says the next step is to see whether the mice are able to move following treatment.  Di Giovanni says researchers would like to find compounds that can be given to people with spinal cord injuries.

“…to see whether specific drugs can enhance functional recovery and promote nerve growth by fortifying this epigenetic mechanism that we have identified," said Di Giovanni.

Meanwhile, researchers at King’s College London describe how they injected a single shot of scar-busting gene therapy into the injured spinal cords of rats.  The enzyme, called chondroitinase ABC, digested scar-forming proteins at the lesion site.  Scar tissue can prevent  damaged nerves from re-growing.

In The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report how, within weeks, the gene therapy promoted the survival of nerve cells and improved the rats’ hind limb function, offering hope that the therapy could one day treat people with spinal cord injuries.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid