Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCSF study finds nerve regeneration is possible in spinal cord injuries

05.12.2005


A team of scientists at UCSF has made a critical discovery that may help in the development of techniques to promote functional recovery after a spinal cord injury.



By stimulating nerve cells in laboratory rats at the time of the injury and then again one week later, the scientists were able to increase the growth capacity of nerve cells and to sustain that capacity. Both factors are critical for nerve regeneration.

The study, reported in the November 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on earlier findings in which the researchers were able to induce cell growth by manipulating the nervous system before a spinal cord injury, but not after.


Key to the research is an important difference in the properties of the nerve fibers of the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord, and those of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is the network of nerve fibers that extends throughout the body.

Nerve cells normally grow when they are young and stop when they are mature. When an injury occurs in CNS cells, the cells are unable to regenerate on their own. In PNS cells, however, an injury can stimulate the cells to regrow. PNS nerve regeneration makes it possible for severed limbs to be surgically reattached to the body and continue to grow and regain function.

Regeneration occurs because PNS cell bodies are sensitive to damage to their nerve processes, and they react by sending out a signal that triggers the nerve fibers to regrow, explains Allan Basbaum, PhD, senior study author and chair of the UCSF Department of Anatomy. "Apparently this communication doesn’t take place within the CNS."

Scientists do not yet know the biochemical cause for the difference, he adds.

The traditional scientific approach in efforts to enhance CNS regeneration is to manipulate the biochemical environment of the cells at the site of the spinal cord injury, according to Basbaum. Instead of this type of investigation, Basbaum’s team used nervous system manipulation techniques to apply the principles of PNS cell growth capability to CNS cells.

The researchers took advantage of an unusual class of nerve fibers that has both a PNS and a CNS branch. Previously, the researchers had shown in animal studies that an injury made to the peripheral branch prior to a spinal cord injury provided the essential communication signal that enabled the CNS branch to grow. But this only worked if the PNS injury--which served as priming for CNS cell growth--was made at least a week before the CNS injury. "Clearly this would have no utility in clinical situations, where treatments cannot be made in anticipation of spinal cord injury," says Basbaum. Another challenge the researchers faced was stimulating CNS cells to grow beyond the injury site and into healthy tissue, which is essential to help regain function.

"A PNS injury at the time of spinal cord damage will only promote growth of nerve fibers into the spinal cord lesion, but not into the tissue beyond it. This is because growth capacity is enhanced, but it is not sustained," he explains. In the new study, researchers evaluated the effect of two peripheral nerve lesions (injuries) in animals with spinal cord injury. One lesion was made at the time of the cord injury and a second was made a week later. Both lesions were located in the animals’ sciatic nerve, which is part of the PNS.

The researchers found that the two "priming lesions" not only promoted significant spinal cord regeneration within the area of the spinal cord injury, but more important, the regenerating axons grew back into normal areas of the spinal cord, where the hope is that functional connections can be reestablished. Axons are the long, fragile, fibers that conduct impulses between nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and limbs.

"Getting the growth beyond the lesion is key. If we can get those axons to grow even a few centimeters past the lesion, they can start sending signals and developing new circuits throughout the body," says Basbaum. Basbaum adds that timing is critical for successful nerve regeneration. "There is a window of opportunity just after the injury when the potential for growth through and beyond the lesion is greatest. If we wait too long after an injury, the cells revert back to their normal, no-growth state. Plus, scar tissue begins to form, making growth difficult." "These findings give us hope. The nervous system is capable of being modified to a level where we can achieve nerve fiber growth. Ultimately, the goal is to promote growth and sustain it long enough for recovery of movement to occur in spinal cord injury patients," he concludes. Study co-authors include first-author Simona Neumann, PhD, and Kate Skinner, MD, both of UCSF. The research was funded by the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund of California and the National Institutes of Health.

Linda Gebroe | EurekAlert!

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>