Two techniques that had been previously developed to treat spinal cord injury in animals work effectively when combined, allowing deliberately injured rats to regain a certain amount of mobility, researchers say.
Although several steps remain before researchers can begin to consider testing the technique in people, a top government researcher said the advance is “very important.”
“The animals were able to balance their weight, place their feet and walk around in a way that shows messages are working their way down to their legs,” said Naomi Kleitman, program director in spinal cord injury at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
One technique involves transplanting special cells called Schwann Cells to bridge damaged spinal cord tissue. The other involves administering a substance called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which helps nerve cells regenerate. The new study showed that the two techniques work well together.
Kleitman described the restored function in the rats as “a little miracle.” Other research groups have also shown improvements in animal studies of spinal cord injury, but Kleitman said it was difficult to compare the different results. She said the new result would have to be reproduced and scientists would have to evaluate the optimal dose and timing of the techniques before they could consider human testing.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami School of Medicine, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and Hunter College in New York. It was published in Nature Medicine.
By Shankar Vedantam
The Washington Post
Published on: 05/24/04