Research Alert: Study Shows Promise of Nerve Regeneration after Spinal Cord Injury
A study published in Nature in December 2014 demonstrates that a new drug in development has allowed paralyzed rats to regain bladder function and even walk again. The compound, named intracellular sigma peptide (ISP), releases nerve fibers that have become trapped in scar tissue after a spinal cord injury (SCI).
In the 1980s, scientist and professor Jerry Silver of Case Western Reserve University identified a substance in cartilage called a proteoglycan that could redirect the millions of “untapped” nerve fibers being unused in the body. More than a decade later, Silver realized that the finding could be applied to SCI and designed a compound that releases the nerve ends, in turn flooding the spinal cord with serotonin and restoring the potential for nerve growth.
In an animal study, researchers working with Silver administered daily injections to 26 rats and monitored the results. Twenty-one of the 26 rats receiving various doses regained at least one of three benchmark functions: bladder control, balance, and walking, Of the paralyzed rats receiving high doses of the drug, all regained some bladder control and one-third was able to walk again. A major advantage to this treatment is that it’s minimally invasive—a simple injection under the skin—whereas most other treatments being explored require surgery.
However, according to the researchers the trial needs to be performed on a larger animal before it can move to human trials. Conquer Paralysis Now commends the research team for their work and will monitor the compound’s progress with cautious optimism.
To learn more about the study you can listen to NPR’s story and read the original paper in Nature.