April 7, 2009 — 10:24am ET |
By John Carroll
In a significant new step toward repairing spinal cord damage, researchers have successfully used new viral technology to deploy genetically engineered cells that spur the regrowth of corticospinal motor axons.
Scientists have been able to re-grow neurons before, but this is the first time they have successfully tackled corticospinal motor axons in an animal study. The neurons carry movement signals to the brain and are essential in repairing spinal cord damage.
“Previous research has succeeded in regenerating nerve connections that arise from some types of cells affected by a spinal cord injury,” says Dr. Mark Tuszynski, a professor at UC San Diego. “However, until now, there has not been success in eliciting the regeneration of injured connections from corticospinal motor axons, cells which are essential to restoring voluntary movement in humans.”
There are big challenges ahead before any such approach can be tried in humans, but scientists say they are encouraged by the robustness of the response they’re seeing in rats.
– read the report from HealthDay