A new study shows that a drug which targets the nerves in the spine could help repair serious spinal cord injuries. Remarkably, the study– which was recently published in the journal Nature — suggests that people with these injuries could regain some control of their limbs and bladder.
Significant damage to the spinal cord can block brain signals from reaching other parts of the body–in many cases, those organs and limbs located below the waist. Research has shown that the scar tissue which forms after an injury can prevent the spinal cord from healing properly, making it impossible for the brain to properly communicate with the body.
But an emerging drug could help with this issue by interrupting the formation of this scar tissue. Specifically, the drug disrupts the formation of what researchers call “sticky glue”, which prevents nerve cells from growing once an injury has taken place.
The study was carried out by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers. The researchers injected the drug under the skin of rats and were able to show that it prevented the sticky glue from forming.
Professor Jerry Silver, the study’s lead researcher, described the results as “amazing”. “What we could see was really remarkable,” Silver said. “Some recovered to a fantastic extent and so well you could hardly tell there was an injury.”
Silver hopes to carry out similar experiments on larger animals before organizing human trials.
Dr. Lyn Jakeman of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders says Silver’s findings are hugely important. “There are currently no drug therapies available that improve the very limited natural recovery from spinal cord injuries that patients experience,” Jakeman said.
“This is a great step towards identifying a novel agent for helping people recover.”