(Reuters) – German researchers have made it possible for mice paralyzed after spinal cord injuries to go back and restore a neural link that was previously considered irreversible in mammals using a designer protein injected into the brain.
Spinal cord injuries in humans, often caused by sports or traffic accidents, leave them paralyzed because not all the nerve fibers that carry information between muscle and brain are able to grow back.
But researchers from Ruhr University Bochum managed to stimulate the paralyzed nerve cells to regenerate using a designer protein.
“The special thing about our study is that the protein is not only used to stimulate the nerve cells that produce it, but that it is also passed on (through the brain),”
“In this way, with a relatively small intervention, we stimulate a very large number of nerves to regenerate, and that is ultimately why the mice can walk again.”
The paralyzed rodents who received the treatment started walking after two to three weeks, he said.
The treatment involves injecting carriers of genetic information into the brain to produce the protein, called hyperinterleukin-6, according to the university’s website.
The team is investigating whether the treatment can be improved.
“We also need to see if our method works on larger mammals. For example, we would Think of pigs, dogs or primates, ”Fischer said.
“So if it works there, we have to make sure that the treatment is also safe for humans. But it will definitely take many, many years. ”
Reporting by Stephane Nitschke and Zuzanna Szymanska; editing by John Stonestreet