Restoring Function in Spinal Cord Injury

Researchers are making progress on a variety of ways to encourage nerve regrowth in mammals where it normally doesn't occur, such as in the aftermath of spinal injuries:

A therapy combining salmon fibrin injections into the spinal cord and injections of a gene inhibitor into the brain restored voluntary motor function impaired by spinal cord injury. In a study on rodents, [researchers] achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical to the formation of corticospinal tract nerve connections and providing a scaffold so that neuronal axons at the injury site could grow and link up again.

Axons flourish after the deletion of an enzyme called PTEN, which controls a molecular pathway regulating cell growth. PTEN activity is low during early development, allowing cell proliferation. PTEN subsequently turns on, inhibiting this pathway and precluding any ability to regenerate. Salmon fibrin injected into rats with spinal cord injury filled cavities at the injury site, giving axons a framework in which to reconnect and facilitate recovery. Fibrin is a stringy, insoluble protein produced by the blood clotting process and is used as a surgical glue.

In their study, [the researchers] treated rodents with impaired hand movement due to spinal cord injury with a combination of salmon fibrin and a PTEN inhibitor called AAVshPTEN. A separate group of rodents got only AAVshPTEN. The researchers saw that rats receiving the inhibitor alone did not exhibit improved motor function, whereas those given AAVshPTEN and salmon fibrin recovered forelimb use involving reaching and grasping. "The data suggest that the combination of PTEN deletion and salmon fibrin injection into the lesion can significantly enhance motor skills by enabling regenerative growth of corticospinal tract axons."



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