German scientists’ new finding enables mice that were paralyzed after spinal cord injuries to walk again. A designer protein injected into the brain re-establishes a neural link that was earlier considered irreparable in mammals.
Spinal cord injuries in humans leave them paralyzed because not all of the nerve fibers that carry information between muscles and the brain are able to grow back. But the researchers from Ruhr University Bochum accomplished to spur the paralyzed mice’s nerve cells to reconstruct using a designer protein.
“The special thing about our study is that the protein is not only used to stimulate those nerve cells that produce it themselves but that it is also carried further (through the brain),” the team’s head Dietmar Fischer told Reuters in an interview. In this way, with a relatively small intervention, we stimulate a very large number of nerves to regenerate and that is ultimately the reason why the mice can walk again. He clarified.
The paralyzed rodents that got the treatment started walking after two to three weeks. The treatment includes injecting carriers of genetic information into the brain to produce the protein, called hyper-interleukin-6. The team is investigating if the treatment can be improved.
The researchers are waiting to test on larger mammals like pigs, dogs, or primates. If it works there they would have to make sure that the therapy is safe for humans too. But that will certainly take many years.