Nerve growth after complete spinal cord injury
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The renowned researchers Zhigang He from Boston, Michael Sofroniew from Los Angeles and Grégoire Courtine from Lausanne showed how a “repair strategy” can be developed after a complete spinal cord injury.
Naturally, nerve growth in the central nervous system after a spinal cord injury is extremely limited. According to the scientists, there are three essential prerequisites for this: the ability of the nerves themselves to regenerate, the growth-promoting environmental conditions and an external chemical stimulus that attracts nerve growth to the right target.
100 times stronger nerve growth
He, Sofroniew and Courtine have now managed to successfully influence these three factors in animal models with complete spinal cord injury.
They focused in their model on a special type of nerve cell, in the spinal cord (propriospinal neurons). These are already known to be spontaneously capable of forming circuits within the spinal cord after incomplete injuries.
After a lot of hard work, the scientists were able to put together a complex “cocktail” of molecules that influences all three conditions: For science foxes: these are the proteins CNTF, OPN, IGF1, FGF2, EGF and GDNF. This led to a nerve growth over the site of injury that was 100 times greater than in control groups.
The nerve growth was very successful and the nerves were also electrically conductive. Nevertheless, no functional improvements could be recognized, as the animals could not run better. For this important step, researchers will now include another fourth approach to the combination therapy - an intensive, specific rehabilitation program.
This study was published in the prestigious journal Nature and was supported by Wings for Life.