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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs