Nav: Home

€1.3m study could pave way for therapies to repair spinal cord

November 30, 2016

Brain scientists are using tropical fish to investigate how the spinal cord can be coaxed to repair itself after injury.

The European research team has received £1.1 million (€1.3m) to investigate how zebrafish are able to repair and replace damaged nerve cells.

Researchers will explore how these mechanisms can be triggered in other animals and human cells.

They hope their findings will reveal new therapies that could be tested in patients with neurodegenerative conditions, such as motor neuron disease and multiple sclerosis. Such treatments could also help people with certain types of paralysis.

The spinal cord carries vital connections between the brain and muscles called motor neurons, which are crucial for controlling movement of the body. Damage to these fragile nerve cells - either by injury or disease - is permanent and results in irreversible paralysis.

Zebrafish have the remarkable ability to repair injured connections and replace damaged motor neurons, enabling them to regain full movement within four weeks after injury.

They are also able to repair the specialised sheath that surrounds nerve cells - called myelin - which helps speed up the transmission of nerve impulses that control movement.

The team - coordinated by the University of Edinburgh - includes brain experts from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), University Hospital Dresden, DFG Centre for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Researchers are developing specialised microscope techniques to monitor the mechanisms of nerve cell repair in action.

They hope to identify the molecular signals that instruct stem cells in the zebrafish's spinal cord to produce new motor neurons and stimulate repair of the myelin sheath.

These factors will then be examined in further animal studies and laboratory tests on human cells.

At the end of the three-year study, the researchers hope to identify potential therapies that can be taken forward into clinical trials involving patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

The study is funded by the European Commission through the European Research Area Network for Neuroscience Research (ERA-NET NEURON) and co-funded through national funding agencies.

Lead researcher Professor Catherina Becker, Director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Neuroregeneration, said: "This exciting project brings together leading experts from across Europe to explore the intrinsic capacity of the spinal cord to repair itself. We hope this will eventually lead to urgently needed therapies for people who have damage to their spinal cord, either from disease or injury."
-end-


University of Edinburgh

Related Spinal Cord Articles:

Neurological signals from the spinal cord surprise scientists
With a study of the network between nerve and muscle cells in turtles, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into the way in which movements are generated and maintained.
An 'EpiPen' for spinal cord injuries
An injection of nanoparticles can prevent the body's immune system from overreacting to trauma, potentially preventing some spinal cord injuries from resulting in paralysis.
From spinal cord injury to recovery
Spinal cord injury disconnects communication between the brain and the spinal cord, disrupting control over part of the body.
Transplanting adult spinal cord tissues: A new strategy of repair spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury repair is one of the most challenging medical problems, and no effective therapeutic methods has been developed.
Gene medication to help treat spinal cord injuries
The two-gene medication has been proven to recover motor functions in rats.
Spinal cord is 'smarter' than previously thought
New research from Western University has shown that the spinal cord is able to process and control complex functions, like the positioning of your hand in external space.
The lamprey regenerates its spinal cord not just once -- but twice
Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) scientists report that lampreys can regenerate the spinal cord and recover function after the spinal cord has been severed not just once, but twice in the same location.
Timing could mean everything after spinal cord injury
Moderate damage to the thoracic spinal cord causes widespread disruption to the timing of the body's daily activities, according to a study of male and female rats published in eNeuro.
New approach could jumpstart breathing after spinal cord injury
A research team at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto has developed an innovative strategy that could help to restore breathing following traumatic spinal cord injury.
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde: Study reveals healing mesenchymal cells morph and destroy muscles in models of spinal cord injury, ALS and spinal muscular atrophy
Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), in collaboration with the Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS in Rome, have discovered a new disease-specific role in FAP cells in the development of muscle tissue wasting, indicating a potential new avenue for treating motor neuron diseases including spinal cord injury, ALS and spinal muscular atrophy.
More Spinal Cord News and Spinal Cord Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.