A bacterial enzyme that enables severed nerves to repair themselves is reported in Nature (Vol. 416, No. 6881, dated 11 April 2002). It could form part of a future regimen for victims of spinal cord injury.
After damage to spinal cord tissue, a thicket of molecules is deposited that prevent nerve cells growing back into the scarred area.
Elizabeth Bradbury of King's College London, and colleagues injected rats that had spinal cord injury with chondroitinase ABC, a bacterial enzyme that chews up one of the obstructing molecules. Severed nerves partially regenerated, and the animals regained near-normal walking behaviour.
In combination with strategies to overcome other inhibitory blocks, chondroitinase ABC could aid recovery from spinal cord injuries, says neuroscientist Lars Olson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. "Intense experimental work is beginning to suggest that they might one day be treatable," he says in an accompanying News and Views article.
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