SCIENTISTS are on the brink of a major potential breakthrough in the repair of spinal cord injuries.
Action Medical Research, a national charity, has said that the work at the Cambridge University Centre for Brain Repair may bring new hope to people paralysed as a result of broken backs and necks.
In the UK there are more than 40,000 people with spinal injuries, which can take the form of anything from loss of sensation to full paralysis.
The problem facing neurologists has been that the body cannot repair damage to the brain or spinal cord.
Although nerves can regenerate, they are blocked by the scar tissue at the site of the spinal injury.
Professor James Fawcett’s Cambridge-based team believes it is close to a clinical treatment that could allow nerve fibres to regenerate within the spinal cord and encourage remaining nerve fibres to work more effectively.
The team has found that a bacterial enzyme called chondroitinase can digest molecules within scar tissue to allow some nerve fibres to regrow.
It also promotes nerve Plasticity, which means that any remaining undamaged nerve fibres have an increased likelihood of making new connections to bypass the area of damage.
Professor Fawcett said: “It is rare to find that a spinal cord is completely severed. Generally there are still some nerve fibres that are undamaged.
“Clinical trials have not yet been started, but the treatment is under pre-clinical development by Acorda Therapeutics, a Biotechnology company in New York.”
by Gerry Corner, Liverpool Echo