Four months after treating them, Yasuhiro Shiga, MD, PhD, checked on his rats. Walking into the lab, he carried minimal expectations. Treating spinal cord injuries with stem cells had been tried by many people, many times before, with modest success at best. The endpoint he was specifically there to measure — pain levels — hadn’t seemed to budge in past efforts.
Thousands of people worldwide suffer severe spinal cord injuries each year, but little is known about why these injuries often continue to deteriorate long after the initial damage occurs.
Yi Ren, a professor of biomedical sciences at the Florida State University College of Medicine, is making progress in understanding why such significant harm is inflicted in the weeks and months after a spinal injury. In a study published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Ren explained how a natural immune system response may contribute to additional injury.
Humans can regenerate their peripheral nerves (PNS), but the regenerative ability does not extend to the central nervous system (CNS). So, what changed? Previously, the focus had been on identifying the cellular and molecular contributors that differentiate this regenerative ability in CNS vs. PNS. But now there seems to be a shift towards recognizing the underlying genetic makeup differences between the two.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified some of the critical steps taken by peripheral nerves – those in the arms and legs – as they regenerate.
In the hours and days following a spinal cord injury, the gears that control the body’s internal clocks fall profoundly out of sync, impacting body temperature, hormone fluctuation, immunity and the timing of a host of other bodily processes, according to new CU Boulder research.
The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and published Monday in the journal eNeuro, is among the first to comprehensively assess how spinal injury impacts circadian rhythms, or the 24-hour-cycles of physiological processes. If replicated in humans, the findings could lead to new “chronotherapies” to reset off-kilter clocks and potentially improve long-term recovery.
Case Western Reserve Researchers Restore Breathing and Partial Forelimb Function in Rats with Chronic...
Promising results provide hope for humans suffering from chronic paralysis
Millions of people worldwide are living with chronic spinal cord injuries, with 250,000 to 500,000 new cases each year—most from vehicle crashes or falls. The most severe spinal cord injuries completely paralyze their victims and more than half impair a person’s ability to breathe. Now, a breakthrough study published in Nature Communications has demonstrated, in animal models of chronic injury, that long-term, devastating effects of spinal cord trauma on breathing and limb function may be reversible.
A research team at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto has developed an innovative strategy that could help to restore breathing following traumatic spinal cord injury.
The team, led by principal investigator Dr. Michael Fehlings – a neurosurgeon/neuroscientist, specialist in spinal cord injury and senior scientist at UHN – published its findings today in the journal Nature in a paper titled “Cervical excitatory neurons sustain breathing after spinal cord injury.”
Modern medicine has still not managed to crack the problem of spinal cord injuries that result in significant paralysis or loss of functional status.
There are numerous factors that influence the inability to restore movement or autonomous bodily control to these patients. A prominent example of these is the inability to cultivate new neurons that make up and power the spinal cord.
However, some researchers have claimed that they have successfully induced ‘generic’ human stem cells to differentiate into stem cells that apply more specifically to the spine.
Researchers at King’s College London and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience have shown that rats with spinal cord injuries can re-learn skilled hand movements after being treated with a gene therapy.
The molecule inhibits adult axon regeneration, but appears to stimulate young neurons
Recovery after severe spinal cord injury is notoriously fraught, with permanent paralysis often the result. In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned to stem cell-based therapies as a potential method for repairing and replacing damaged nerve cells. They have struggled, however, to overcome numerous innate barriers, including myelin, a mixture of insulating proteins and lipids that helps speed impulses through adult nerve fibers but also inhibits neuronal growth.
With the help of robot-assisted rehabilitation and electrochemical spinal cord stimulation, rats with clinically relevant spinal cord injuries regained control of their otherwise paralyzed limbs. But how do brain commands for walking, swimming and stair-climbing bypass the injury and still reach the spinal cord to execute these complex tasks? EPFL scientists have observed for the first time that the brain reroutes task-specific motor commands through alternative pathways originating in the brainstem and projecting to the spinal cord. The therapy triggers the growth of new connections from the motor cortex into the brainstem and from the brainstem into the spinal cord, thus reconnecting the brain with the spinal cord below the injury. The results are published in Nature Neuroscience March 19th.