Gene therapy to improve recovery
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Below a spinal injury there is a special circuit that often remains intact and functional. This so-called intraspinal network ensures communication along the spine but is not directly controlled by the brain. It plays a role, for example, in the walking functions and is an interesting target for restoring lost mobility.
Virus as vehicle
Benedikt Brommer, a scientist working in the team of Zhigang He at Boston Children’s Hospital, USA. He used a special virus, called AAV9, as a vehicle to stimulate these intraspinal networks. With this stepping activity in experimental spinal models was induced. By taking advantage of the short term opening of the protective blood brain barrier, they could successfully deliver chemogenetic actuators within the injured spine and restore lost stepping functions, by a simple intravenous injection.
This innovative approach is very interesting. Although still far from a clinical application, this work shows that gene therapy could be potentially used to increase the functional restoration.
This study was published in the journal Nature Communications and was supported by Wings for Life.
Source: B Brommer, M He, Z Zhang, Z Yang, JC Page, J Su, Y Zhang , J Zhu, E Gouy, J Tang, P Williams, W Dai, Q Wang, R Solinsky, B Chen, Z He. Improving hindlimb locomotor function by Non-invasive AAV-mediated manipulations of propriospinal neurons in mice with complete spinal cord injury. Nat Commun 2021;12(1):781.
You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.