New hope for spinal injuries found in paralysed rats

US scientists have reported a major breakthrough discovery to treating spinal injuries that result in paralysis.

Paralyzed rats were able to re-gain some bladder control after undergoing surgery to transplant nerve cells into the spinal cord. Surgery was then combined with series of chemical injections. After three, and again at six months, the scientists discovered that rats who had received this combination of treatment showed a remarkable measure of urinary control.

This special “glue” of chemicals boosts cell growth and breaks down scar tissue, encouraging the cells to regenerate.

The researchers found for the first time that injured nerve cells could re-grow for “remarkably long distances” of approximately 2cm, raising hopes for treating paralyzed patients in the future.

Achieving cell growth after they have been transplanted has always proved difficult for scientists because of the scar tissue damaged cells produce as they respond to injury.

Instead Yu-Shang Lee, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic, together with Jerry Silver, PhD, of Case Western Reserve Medical School, and others used a chemical that promotes cell growth and reduces scarring, creating an environment that cells are more likely to grow better.

“This is the first time that significant bladder function has been restored via nerve regeneration after a devastating cord injury,” Lee added. 

The study was published in the 26 June edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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