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Scientists make Mice Walk After Spinal Cord Injury

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Have you ever wondered how we move our hand, feet and other parts of the body? It is through signals emanating from brain giving directions. But if spinal cord, the vertebral tissue connecting brain and lower part of spine, is damaged or injured, it effects our movements of limbs and in some cases other parts of the body leading to paralysis.

Injury to spinal cord results in nerve damage which is due to trauma or injury to vertebral column thus effecting brain’s signaling ability. Till recently doctors were of opinion that the only solution to making a patient with this kind of Disability to move his lower limb was to reproduce the long nerve linking brain and end of spine. But UCLA conducted a study for the first time showing that a new shorter path can be created by our nervous system to restore the cells required for moving lower limb.

Dr. Michael Sofroniew conducted a study using mice for trial. The injured mice regained their mobility after eight weeks when their nerve pathways were reorganized by making them shorter. Though the mice staggered a bit, their walk was much better than what it was before injury. When this shortened pathway was blocked, it lead to paralysis thus proving the fact that this pathway is very important for receiving signals.

These findings prove that nervous system is in a position to reorganize on its own. This result will help roughly 250,000 Americans suffering from severe spinal cord injuries with about 10,000 cases occurring every year.

The UCLA team is in process of making nerve cells grow in the spine forming new pathways connecting injured area and make it easier for the brain to send signal to that injured area. This will enhance the ability to restore mobility which is affected following injury to spinal cord.

by Vladimir C. Murray

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