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Revolutionary injection could help repair spinal cord injuries

Paralyzed mice regrew nerves within three months following weekly injections.



Syringe in a hand of a little girl. Vaccine vaccination child baby doctor injection pediatrician injecting arm health immunization hand hospital needle syringe. Covid 19 Coronavirus vaccine concept.
(MorphoBio via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

A revolutionary jab that could repair spinal cord injuries has been developed by scientists.

Paralyzed mice regrew nerves within three months following weekly injections, according to a new study.

Lead author Dr. Simone Di Giovanni, of Imperial College London, said: "This work shows a drug called TTK21 that is administered systemically once a week after a chronic spinal cord injury in animals can promote neuronal regrowth and an increase in synapses that are needed for neuronal transmission.

"This is important because chronic spinal cord injury is a condition without a cure where neuronal regrowth and repair fail."

Damage to the spinal cord interrupts the constant stream of electrical signals from the brain to the body. It can lead to paralysis below an injury.

The medication triggers cells to regenerate. Long spindly parts of the severed nerves - called axons - were mended.

Currently, spinal cord injury does not have any effective treatments. Physical rehabilitation can help patients regain some mobility.

But for severe cases, the outcomes are extremely limited by the failure of spinal neurons to regenerate naturally.

Pictured is an increased density of synapses (green) that contact motoneurons (purple) in the spinal cord of an injured animal after treatment with the small molecule TTK21. (Franziska Mueller via SWNS)

The study published in the journal PLOS Biology showed TTK21 aided the regrowth of sensory and motor neurons when given to mice 12 weeks after severe injury.

It belongs to a group of therapies known as epigenetic activators which target damaged DNA.

Building on past success, the researchers used it to switch on genes that induced axon regeneration in neurons.

In experiments, lab rodents with severe spinal cord injury lived in an enriched environment that gave them opportunities to be physically active - as is encouraged in human patients.

Treatment lasted for 10 weeks. Several improvements were identified - the most noticeable being the sprouting of more axons in the spinal cord.

Retraction of motor axons above the point of injury was also halted - and sensory axon growth increased.

These changes were likely due to the observed increase in gene expression related to regeneration, said Dr. Di Giovanni.

The next step will be to boost the effects even more and get regenerating axons to reconnect to the rest of the nervous system so animals can regain their ability to move with ease.

Dr. Di Giovanni added: "We are now exploring the combination of this drug with strategies that bridge the spinal cord gap such as biomaterials as possible avenues to improve disability in SCI patients."

For decades, this has remained a major challenge. Our body's central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant capacity to repair itself.

Superman star Christopher Reeve broke his neck in 1995 when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition in Virginia.

He was left quadriplegic and died nine years later - at the age of 52. Life expectancy after spinal cord injury has not improved since the 1980s.

In the UK an estimated 50,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury. Each year approximately 2,500 people are newly injured.

It affects nearly 300,000 in the US. Life for these patients can be extraordinarily difficult.

Fewer than three percent ever recover basic physical functions. A third are re-hospitalized at least once a year.

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