Simple Injection Shows Promise for Treating Paralysis
Paralyzed lab rodents with spinal cord injuries apparently regained some ability to walk six weeks after a simple injection of biodegradable soap-like molecules that helped nerves regenerate.
The research could have implications for humans with similar injuries.
"It will take a long time, but we want to offer at least some improvement, to improve quality of life for people with these injuries," materials scientist Samuel Stupp at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., told LiveScience. "Anything would be considered a breakthrough, because there's nothing right now."
The idea he and his
colleagues have for these molecules is to administer them within a day
or so after spinal cord injuries, before scar tissue begins to form
that can suppress healing. Past experiments have shown these molecules
can actually turn neural stem cells (which might otherwise become scar
cells) into neurons instead.
"Recovering every function a person had before an injury will probably
be very hard," Stupp cautioned. "Even if people couldn't walk, if they
could recover bladder function, that'd be a good thing. It's the first
thing I'd want to recover."
The researchers now are developing versions of these soap-like
molecules that could help with regeneration when it comes to other
maladies such as Parkinson's disease, stroke, heart attacks, bone trauma or diabetes.