There is currently no cure for spinal cord injury or treatment to help nerve regeneration so therapies offering intervention are limited. People with severe spinal cord injuries can remain paralysed for life and this is often accompanied by incontinence.
A team led by Drs Liang-Fong Wong and Nicolas Granger from Bristol’s Faculty of Health Sciences has successfully transplanted genetically modified cells that secrete a treatment molecule shown to be effective at removing the scar following spinal cord damage. The scar in the damaged spinal cord typically limits recovery by blocking nerve regrowth.
On April 2, The Journal of Neuroscience published a study on the use of a single administration of a gene-therapy targeting scar tissue at the site of a spinal cord injury in rats. The gene therapy helped nerve cells survive, and improved function of the affected hind limbs over the course of weeks, raising the possibility that the therapy might be useful to treat humans with spinal cord injuries.
Spinal cord injury is one of the most intractable medical problems, affecting, as it does, the main conduit for sensory and motor information from the brain to the body and back. When the spinal cord is injured, scar tissue forms, inhibiting re-growth of the axonal processes that make up the nerve cord.