London: For the first time, scientists have
regenerated spinal cord nerves by removing a `biological
brake` on their growth -- a breakthrough that raises hope for
thousands of patients left paralysed by back and neck
Researchers at the Reeve-Irvine Research Centre in the
US, focused on a protein that turns off the growth of nerve
fibres in adults, using mice as test subjects.
By genetically deleting the enzyme, they were able to
switch the ability of the nerves to regenerate back on.
The scientists are now investigating whether the
technique can restore movement to mice crippled by spinal cord
injuries, the Daily Mail reported.
Study leader Professor Oswald Steward, from the
University of California at Irvine, said: "Until now, such
robust nerve regeneration has been impossible in the spinal
"Paralysis and loss of function from spinal cord injury
has been considered untreatable, but our discovery points the
way towards a potential therapy to induce regeneration of
nerve connections following spinal cord injury in people."
Professor Steward is director of the Reeve-Irvine
Research Centre, named after Christopher Reeve, the former
`Superman` star, who was paralysed from the neck down in a
riding accident. It is dedicated to investigating treatments
for spinal injury.
According to scientists, an injury the size of a grape
can lead to complete loss of function beneath the breakage
Severed nerves, which control the voluntary movement, in
the neck may cause paralysis of the arms and legs, and an
inability to control the bladder and bowel.
"All these functions could be restored if we could find a
way to regenerate the connections that were damaged," said
The findings were reported in the journal Nature