Swiss Scientists Develop Gene Therapy to Restore Mobility in Spinal Cord Injuries
Gene therapy has taken a groundbreaking step forward in the field of spinal cord injuries, with scientists at NeuroRestore in Switzerland successfully developing a therapy that can stimulate nerve regrowth and restore mobility. This significant breakthrough offers hope for individuals with spinal cord injuries, as impaired motor function can now potentially be repaired.
Previously, studies have shown that mice and humans with partially damaged spinal cords can experience spontaneous recovery of motor function. However, this phenomenon has not been observed in cases of complete spinal cord injuries. Nevertheless, previous research conducted by the scientists at NeuroRestore revealed that nerve fibers could be regenerated across anatomically complete spinal cord injuries. However, these new fibers failed to connect to the appropriate locations on the other side of the injury.
To delve deeper into this process, the Swiss scientists employed cutting-edge equipment to identify the specific neurons involved in natural spinal cord repair after a partial injury. Building upon their findings, the researchers developed a multipronged gene therapy approach. This therapy involves activating growth programs in neurons, upregulating specific proteins, and administering guidance molecules to attract regenerating nerve fibers to their natural targets.
The effects of this gene therapy were tested on mice with complete spinal cord injuries. Remarkably, the mice regained the ability to walk after receiving the therapy, exhibiting gait patterns similar to those observed in mice with only partial injuries. However, the scientists caution that the gene therapy may need to be combined with electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to fully restore motor function.
While there are still obstacles to overcome before this gene therapy can be applied in humans, the researchers at NeuroRestore have taken the first crucial steps towards developing the necessary technology. The study detailing their breakthrough was published in the prestigious journal Science on September 22, 2023.
For individuals living with spinal cord injuries, this gene therapy offers a glimmer of hope for future mobility. As the research progresses, scientists aim to refine and optimize the therapy to ensure its safety and effectiveness for use in humans. The potential to restore lost motor function in individuals with complete spinal cord injuries could revolutionize the field of neurology, bringing newfound independence and quality of life to patients.
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