Most of us take walking for granted, but for many it is a bitter dream.
But that may be about to change forever.
A team of scientists has developed a new type of drug capable of allowing cells to regenerate by reversing paralysis in mice that have suffered spinal cord injuries, allowing them to walk once more with four weeks of treatment, according to a recent study. published in the journal science.
The next step for the Northwestern University team is to propose human trials to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The experiment on mice showed a drastic improvement within four weeks
“The aim of our study was to develop translatable therapy that can be brought to the clinic to prevent paralysis in people after a severe injury or illness,” said Samuel Stup of Northwestern, who led the study. AFP, According to a Scientific signal report. Finding a viable cure for paralysis is an old goal for modern medicine, so it’s no surprise that there are other advanced studies for possible treatments. some rely on stem cells to generate new neurons, while others turn to gene therapy to make the body produce specific proteins and help repair nerves. Sometimes proteins are injected directly. But Stupp and the Northwestern team sought a more engineering-oriented solution, using nanofibers to mimic the serpentine architecture of the extracellular matrix, a network of molecules that surrounds tissues known to support cellular function.
Each of the fibers used by the researchers is incredibly thin – 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. And it consists of hundreds of thousands of peptides, which are bioactive molecules. Peptides send specific signals to trigger nerve regeneration. This therapy takes the form of a gel that is injected directly into the tissue wrapped around the spinal cord of several laboratory mice, 24 hours after the researchers made a precise incision in the animal’s spine. The research team had to wait a whole day after the incision, as people who suffer life-threatening spinal injuries from gunshots, road collisions and other accidents often experience significant delays before starting treatment. And no treatment is good enough to bring people back from the dead.
Four weeks after treatment, the mice that received the treatment actually regained their ability to walk almost as normally as before their injuries. Those who do not receive treatment remain paralyzed. But they may be the lucky ones, as those who could walk again were then removed so that the research team could open them to investigate the effects of the therapy at the cellular level. And, looking at the results, the team found that significant improvements had been made in the spinal cord of the mice.
The new treatment could help 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries
On the one hand, truncated extensions of neurons, known as axions, regenerate. Scar tissue often functions as a physical barrier to regeneration, but in mice treated, it is also reduced. As an additional boost, the insulating layer of axons, known as myelin, which is crucial for sending electrical signals, is also being reformed, and new blood vessels have appeared that carry nutrients to damaged cells, allowing more motor neurons to survive. . This major breakthrough was due to the team’s creation of a specific mutation in the molecules, which improved their collective movement and increased their ability to have widespread effects on wider systems around the spinal cord.
Neural receptors are naturally in constant motion, Stup said in the report, which means that increasing the movement of therapeutic molecules inside the nanofibers has helped them connect to moving targets with greater efficiency. This is the first gel of its kind and can open the door to the next generation of a class of drugs called “supramolecular drugs”, which describes a method of therapy to assemble a large number of molecules instead of relying on just one. Although more animal testing is needed before human trials, this could potentially have life-changing consequences for almost 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries, and this is only in the United States. The life expectancy of people with these injuries is usually shorter and has not increased since the 1980s, so there are no time to waste for this potentially revolutionary discovery.