Rats re­gain use of paws after ther­apy helps mend spinal nerves

The Guardian - - NEWS - Ian Sam­ple Sci­ence editor

Rats with spinal cord in­juries have re­gained the use of their paws after be­ing given a ground­break­ing gene ther­apy that helps to mend dam­aged nerves in the spine.

The new ther­apy works by dis­solv­ing the dense scar tis­sue that forms a thick bar­rier be­tween sev­ered nerves when the spinal col­umn is bro­ken.

An­i­mals that were given the treat­ment pro­duced an en­zyme called chon­droiti­nase, which breaks down scar tis­sue and al­lows the bro­ken nerves to re­con­nect with each other.

When the ther­apy was given for two months, rats re­learned the kinds of skilled move­ments they needed to grab lit­tle su­gar balls from a plat­form.

“The gene ther­apy has en­abled us to treat large ar­eas of the spinal cord with only one in­jec­tion,” said El­iz­a­beth Brad­bury, who led the re­search at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. “This is im­por­tant be­cause the spinal cord is long and the pathol­ogy spreads down its whole length after in­jury.”

While more animal stud­ies are needed be­fore the ther­apy can go into hu­man tri­als, re­searchers hope that ul­ti­mately the treat­ment will help peo­ple with spinal in­juries who have lost the abil­ity to per­form tasks such as us­ing a knife and fork, and writ­ing.

“Re­cov­er­ing the use of the hands is the top pri­or­ity for the ma­jor­ity of in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with spinal cord in­juries,” Brad­bury said. “It would en­able them to do every­day tasks such as wash­ing and dress­ing in­de­pen­dently, pick­ing up a cof­fee cup, and would be life chang­ing.”

Writ­ing in the jour­nal Brain, the sci­en­tists ex­plain that the ther­apy could have a “sig­nif­i­cant im­pact” on tetraplegics, for whom re­gain­ing hand con­trol could mean a ma­jor im­prove­ment in in­de­pen­dence. Most hu­man spine in­juries, such as those in­flicted by traf­fic ac­ci­dents, dam­age the neck and so af­fect all four limbs.

The re­searchers now need to show it works safely in larger an­i­mals. “While we are hope­ful, we know there is a long way to go to add fur­ther safety el­e­ments to the gene ther­apy be­fore it can be used in hu­mans,” said Brad­bury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.