Using gene therapy, a research team has succeeded for the first time in getting mice to walk again after a complete cross-sectional injury. The nerve cells produced the curative protein themselves.
To date, paralysis resulting from spinal cord damage has been irreparable. With a new therapeutic approach, scientists from the Department for Cell Physiology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) headed by Professor Dietmar Fischer have succeeded for the first time in getting paralyzed mice to walk again. The keys to this are the protein hyper-interleukin-6, which stimulates nerve cells to regenerate, and the way how it is supplied to the animals.
Healing protein bridges severed tissue in fish
A freshwater zebrafish costs less than two bucks at the pet store, but it can do something priceless: Its spinal cord can heal completely after being severed, a paralyzing and often fatal injury for humans.
While watching these fish repair their own spinal cord injuries, Duke University scientists have found a particular protein important for the process. Their study, published Nov. 4 in the journal Science, could generate new leads into tissue repair in humans.
Frogs, dogs, whales, snails can all do it, but humans and primates can’t. Regrow nerves after an injury, that is—while many animals have this ability, humans don’t. But new research from the Salk Institute suggests that a small molecule may be able to convince damaged nerves to grow and effectively rewire circuits. Such a feat could eventually lead to therapies for the thousands of Americans with severe spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
“This research implies that we might be able to mimic neuronal repair processes that occur naturally in lower animals, which would be very exciting,” says the study’s senior author and Salk professor Kuo-Fen Lee. The results were published in PLOS Biology.