Publications Definition A spinal cord injury usually begins with a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures or dislocates vertebrae. The damage begins at the moment of injury when displaced bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue. Instead, an injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy axons -- extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord can damage a few, many, or almost all of these axons.
View gallery - 2 images An international team of researchers has successfully regenerated spinal tissue in rat models using a new gene therapy designed to break down scar tissue and allow new nerve cells to grow. Despite a number of exciting advances in the field of spinal injury regeneration over recent years, there is still no treatment available to help those that have damaged spinal cords regain simple control over things like hand movement.
One of the big challenges in overcoming this problem is that following a traumatic spinal injury there tends to be an accumulation of scar tissue that prevents nerve cells from regenerating and reconnecting.
For some years scientists have known that the direct administration of an enzyme called chondroitinase can promote nerve recovery by Spinal cord injuries down that scar tissue.
Several animal trials have shown this enzyme to be effective in restarting new nerve growth, but the need for repeated, and invasive, administration has slowed the research into a human clinical treatment. More recent work has revealed a potential gene therapy solution, optimizing the release of chondroitinase by increasing the expression of the gene that triggers its production.
Of course, the subsequent problem faced by researchers is that simply over-expressing a certain gene in an uncontrolled way can result in problematic off-target side effects.
So, any effective gene therapy needs to be temporally controllable. This latest discovery by a team led by researchers at King's College London allows the gene therapy to be easily switched on and off via the administration of a common antibiotic.
Gene therapy provides a way of treating large areas of the spinal cord with only one injection, and with the switch we can now turn the gene off when it is no longer needed.
Previous studies that scaled up the gene therapy in primate models revealed that an immune system response generally activated against the artificial gene switch mechanism. To overcome this immune response the researchers hid the mechanism in a "stealth gene" that can effectively avoid detection from immune activated T-cells.
After two and a half weeks an improvement was seen in simple ladder walking tests, and after eight weeks of treatment there were significant increases in skilled hand function. We also found a dramatic increase in activity in the spinal cord of the rats, suggesting that new connections had been made in the networks of nerve cells.
Further research is necessary to entirely shut down the gene's activity before larger trials can be started. The research was published in the journal Brain.The Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program's purpose is to provide all eligible residents who sustain a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury the opportunity to obtain the necessary services that will enable them to return to an appropriate level of functioning in their community.
A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord either from trauma, loss of its normal blood supply, or compression from tumor or infection.
There are approximately 12, new cases of spinal cord injury each year in the United States. Spinal Cord Injury: Basic Facts Spinal cord injury occurs when there is any damage to the spinal cord that blocks communication between the brain and the body.
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord. It’s an extremely serious type of physical trauma that’s likely to have a lasting and significant impact on most aspects of daily life. The Neurotrauma Research Program (NRP) supports exemplary research projects, identified by external scientific review, with the aim of reducing the human and economic impact of catastrophic nervous system injuries such as acquired brain trauma and spinal cord injury.
Spinal fractures are different than a broken arm or leg, a fracture or dislocation of a vertebra can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord.