Scientists at .NeuroRestore in Switzerland have made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of spinal cord injury research. They have developed a gene therapy that has the potential to restore mobility in individuals with spinal cord injuries by stimulating nerve regrowth and guiding nerves to reconnect with their natural targets.
Spinal cord injuries often result in paralysis, with no natural repair occurring after complete injuries. However, previous studies have shown that nerve fibers can be regenerated across complete spinal cord injuries. The challenge lies in connecting these regenerated fibers to the correct places on the other side of the injury, which is crucial for restoring motor function.
To address this challenge, scientists at .NeuroRestore, in collaboration with UCLA and Harvard Medical School, conducted in-depth analyses to identify the specific type of neuron involved in natural spinal cord repair after partial injuries. Armed with this knowledge, they used gene therapy techniques to activate growth programs in identified neurons in mice.
Through this gene therapy, specific proteins were upregulated to support neuron growth, and guidance molecules were administered to attract regenerating nerve fibers to their natural targets. The results were astounding. Mice with anatomically complete spinal cord injuries regained the ability to walk, exhibiting gait patterns similar to those seen in naturally walking mice with partial injuries.
The scientists believe that a combination of approaches, including gene therapy and spinal stimulation, will be necessary for a complete solution in treating spinal cord injuries. While there are still obstacles to overcome before applying this gene therapy in humans, the scientists have taken the first steps towards developing the necessary technology.
The study’s findings were published in the prestigious journal Science on September 22, 2023. This breakthrough has created a wave of excitement in the scientific community, as it brings us one step closer to a future where individuals with spinal cord injuries can regain their motor function.
The scientists at .NeuroRestore and their collaborators envision a future where gene therapy can be used in conjunction with other treatments to restore motor function in individuals with spinal cord injuries. Although there is still a long way to go, this discovery offers hope for the millions of people worldwide affected by spinal cord injuries. With further research and development, we may soon witness a remarkable transformation in the field of spinal cord injury treatment.
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