The research was supported by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Buoniconti Fund.
A combination of therapies helped damaged spines regrow nerve fibers, researchers report in a study of rats.
Three separate therapies, each of which had shown promise in earlier tests, were combined in the new effort by a team at the University of Miami, according to Sunday’s online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.
The combination therapy was designed by Damien D. Pearse and Mary Bartlett Bunge, who were looking for a way to help damaged nerve cells overcome signals that limit their growth after an injury.
They combined cell grafts with the administration of a messenger molecule and the drug Rolipram in animals with spinal injuries. The therapy, they found, helped protect nerve fibers from dying and promoted new growth of fibers into, as well as beyond, the area of injury.
“This work opens up new possibilities for treatments for spinal cord-injured humans,” Bunge said in a statement.
Naomi Kleitman, director of spinal cord injury research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said that in the future “it should be feasible to consider developing a clinical trial in this area” for injured people.
Each part of the therapy was hailed in its own day as promising, but none provided much nerve growth, Kleitman said.
The new work combining them is significant, added Kleitman, who formerly worked at Miami but was not part of the research.
The therapy included administration of the drug Rolipram near the time of injury and, up to one week later, transplantation of nerve cells called Schwann Cells and administration of cyclic adenosine monophosphate, or cAMP. The Rolipram helped protect the damaged nerve cells from further injury. The Schwann cells and cAMP spurred regrowth.