Researchers for the first time have induced robust regeneration of nerve connections that control voluntary movement after spinal cord injury, showing the potential for new therapeutic approaches to paralysis and other motor function impairments.
In a study on rodents, the UC Irvine, UC San Diego and Harvard University team achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical for the growth of corticospinal tract nerve connections.
They did this by deleting an enzyme called PTEN (a phosphatase and tensin homolog), which controls a molecular pathway called mTOR that is a key regulator of cell growth. PTEN activity is low early during development, allowing cell proliferation. PTEN then turns on when growth is completed, inhibiting mTOR and precluding any ability to regenerate.
Trying to find a way to restore early-developmental-stage cell growth in injured tissue, Zhigang He, a senior neurology researcher at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, first showed in a 2008 study that blocking PTEN in mice enabled the regeneration of connections from the eye to the brain after optic nerve damage.
He then partnered with Oswald Steward of UCI and Binhai Zheng of UCSD to see if the same approach could promote nerve regeneration in injured spinal cord sites. Results of their study appear online in Nature Neuroscience.
"Until now, such robust nerve regeneration has been impossible in the spinal cord," said Steward, anatomy & neurobiology professor and director of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UCI. "Paralysis and loss of function from spinal cord injury has been considered untreatable, but our discovery points the way toward a potential therapy to induce regeneration of nerve connections following spinal cord injury in people."
According to Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation data, about 2 percent of Americans have some form of paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury, which is due primarily to the interruption of connections between the brain and spinal cord.
An injury the size of a grape can lead to complete loss of function below the level of injury. For example, an injury to the neck can cause paralysis of arms and legs, loss of ability to feel below the shoulders, inability to control the bladder and bowel, loss of sexual function, and secondary health risks including susceptibility to urinary tract infections, pressure sores and blood clots due to an inability to move the legs.
"These devastating consequences occur even though the spinal cord below the level of injury is intact," Steward noted. "All these lost functions could be restored if we could find a way to regenerate the connections that were damaged."
He and his colleagues are now studying whether the PTEN-deletion treatment leads to actual restoration of motor function in mice with spinal cord injury. Further research will explore the optimal timeframe and drug-delivery system for the therapy.
Kai Liu, Yi Lu, Andrea Tedeschi, Kevin Kyungsuk Park, Duo Jin, Bin Cai, Bengang Xu and Lauren Connolly of Harvard; Jae Lee of UCSD; and Rafer Willenberg and Ilse Sears-Kraxberger of UCI also contributed to the study, which was supported by the Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the International Spinal Research Trust, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, and a private contribution to the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.
About the Reeve-Irvine Research Center: The mission of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center is to find new treatments for spinal cord injury through the collaborative research and educational efforts of prominent scientists and clinicians both at UCI and around the world. For more information, visit www.reeve.uci.edu.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County's largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.Contact:
Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals
21.02.2018 | University of Chicago
The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally
21.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences