Anatomical reconnection of severed nerves is possible in a rat model of spinal cord injury, reports a study published online in Nature Neuroscience.
Severe injuries to the spinal cord often lead to significant or complete loss of function of extremities. The lack of recovery is largely due to the loss of neuronal connections between the brain and other parts of the body since spontaneous regeneration is not possible. Previous efforts to restore neuronal connections between the body and the brain of rats have achieved limited success, often resulting in regeneration of nerves that failed to reach their correct target sites in the brain.
Mark Tuszynski and colleagues now report the re-growth of sensory nerves across an injury site in the spinal cord to the targeted region in the brainstem. Taking cues from normal brain development, the authors used a naturally occurring molecule that attracts growing nerves together with grafted bone marrow cells to act as a cellular "bridge" for regenerating nerve tract.
While full restoration of limb sensation was not achieved with this anatomical reconnection, this manipulation will impact the development of strategies to promote recovery after nerve injuries.
Mark Tuszynski (University of California, San Diego, CA, USA)
Armin Blesch (University of California, San Diego, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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