By Stephen Beech, SWNS
A chemical “cocktail” could restore movement for people crippled after suffering spinal cord injuries, suggests new research.
Scientists say the mixture of three molecules could potentially be given therapeutically to patients to aid in their recovery after serious injury.
After spinal cord injury or stroke, axons originating in the brain’s cortex and along the spinal cord become damaged, disrupting motor skills.
Now, according to findings published in the journal Neuron, a team of scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital in the United States has developed a method to promote axon regrowth after injury.
They administered the therapeutic cocktail of molecules to mice with either a spinal cord injury or stroke and observed that the mice were able to recover fine motor skills.
Study senior author Doctor Zhigang He, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said: “In our lab, for the first time we have a treatment that allowed the spinal cord injury and the stroke model to regain functional recovery.”
His team designed the mixture by building on earlier work from Dr. Joshua Sanes’ group at Harvard who focused on optical nerve injuries. Sanes observed that the combination of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and a protein called osteopontin (OPN) promoted nerve regrowth and vision improvement in optically-injured mice.
Studying a mouse model of stroke, He’s team made a surprising observation.
He said: “We saw what we expected, axon sprouting in the spinal cord.”
“But we also found something unexpected, increased axon sprouting in the subcortical area.”
By genetic manipulation He’s team ablated the sprouted axons of the CST and found that the improvement diminished. That means the functional recovery was not particularly dependent on sprouting in subcortical regions but on those in the spinal cord.
He added: “The functional outcomes of such subcortical sprouting remain to be tested.”
He said that his team are now in talks with rehab centers to determine the prerequisites of ultimately taking their work forward to clinical trials.
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