Scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research have developed an experimental therapy which enables rats with a spinal cord lesion to partially recover from their paralysis. Up until now not even the slightest degree of recovery was possible. PhD student Bas Blits was part of this team.
The method uses a combination of transplantation and gene therapy. For the transplantation, the researchers implanted nerve cells cultured in vitro. The cells originated from the nerves between the ribs where they could be missed. Following the transplantation gene therapy has to further stimulate the growth and recovery of the damaged nerve cells. This is done by means of growth stimulating molecules. These neurotrophic factors are naturally present during, for example, the recovery of nerves following a deep cut in the finger. Normally they are not present in large enough quantities in the spinal cord.
Over the next few years the researchers will try to improve their therapy. PhD student Bas Blits will continue his research (with sponsorship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) at the University of Miami, where he will also attempt to implant stem cells instead of the used nerve cells from the fore rib.
Michel Philippens | alphagalileo
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