Friday, August 01, 2014

Gene inhibitor, salmon fibrin restore function lost in spinal cord injury

A therapy combining salmon fibrin injections into the spinal cord and injections of a gene inhibitor into the brain restored voluntary motor function impaired by spinal cord injury, scientists at UC Irvine's Reeve-Irvine Research Center have found.

In a study on rodents, Gail Lewandowski and Oswald Steward achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical to the formation of corticospinal tract nerve connections and providing a scaffold so that neuronal axons at the injury site could grow and link up again.

Results appear in the July 23 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The work expands on previous research at UCI. In 2010, Steward helped discover that axons flourish after the deletion of an enzyme called PTEN, which controls a molecular pathway regulating cell growth. PTEN activity is low during early development, allowing cell proliferation. PTEN subsequently turns on, inhibiting this pathway and precluding any ability to regenerate.

Two years later, a UCI team found that salmon fibrin injected into rats with spinal cord injury filled cavities at the injury site, giving axons a framework in which to reconnect and facilitate recovery. Fibrin is a stringy, insoluble protein produced by the blood clotting process and is used as a surgical glue.

"This is a major next step in our effort to identify treatments that restore functional losses suffered by those with spinal cord injury," said Steward, professor of anatomy & neurobiology and director of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, of the current findings. "Paralysis and loss of function from spinal cord injury has been considered irreversible, but our discovery points the way toward a potential therapy to induce regeneration of nerve connections."

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Monday, May 05, 2014

Spinal cord work is unexpected shocker: 'This is a breakthrough'

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

New trial offers new hope for those with spinal cord injuries

A Winnipeg paramedic has become the first Canadian to take part in an international clinical trial involving the treatment of spinal cord injuries using stem cells.

Alex Petric was injured last year during a winter vacation in Panama.

“I misjudged the water and just dove in,” the 29-year-old recalls. “I hit shallow water and became paralyzed immediately.”

Petric, now a paraplegic, became involved with the trial just four months after his injury.

“It’s a phase one trial which means that it’s looking at the safety and tolerability of the procedure,” explains Dr. Steve Casha, medical team lead for the University of Calgary.

A Swiss company, called Stem Cells Incorporated is the driving force behind the research. A team in Switzerland has already treated eight other spinal cord patients.

During the trial, researchers must first identify the precise location of Petric’s spinal cord injury. Then, stem cells are injected into two sites above and two sites below the injury to hopefully recreate lost tissue.

“What these cells will hopefully do, and what they seem to do from previous clinical studies is take up residence in the spinal cord. They are a self-renewing population and they can differentiate or become various cells,” Dr. Casha explains.

While the first phase of the trial focuses on safety, the ultimate goal is to develop a cure for spinal cord injuries. So far, two patients in the study have regained sensation.

Petric says his expectations are realistic, but his dream is to walk again.

“That would be beyond words,” he says. “That would be a smile I couldn’t wipe off my face.”

The study is still recruiting patients. Anyone in North America who is a paraplegic due to a spinal cord injury can contact the University of Calgary at 403-944-4334 or the University of Toronto at 416-603-5285 for more information.

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Monday, July 01, 2013

Nerve Cells Regrown In Rats With Spinal Cord Injury

Researchers at the Case Western Medical School and the Cleveland Clinic have developed a technique that regenerates nerve cells in rats, permitting them to urinate normally after severe spinal cord injury. The results of their research are published in today's edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

According to scientists Yu-Shang Lee and Jerry Silver, their technique raises hope that humans with such injuries may also be able to restore bladder and other functions.

The new treatment approach developed by Lee and Silver's team removes scar tissues from damaged nerve cells and grafts healthy cells onto the damaged area of the spinal cord. Two chemicals are then added, one to promote cell growth and another to disrupt scar formation.

Reports of this technique are the latest in a recent series of developments that give hope to those with spinal cord injuries and other conditions that involve nerve damage.

Last month a small private company, Celvive, reported positive results from a method for introducing healthy adult stem cells from the patient's own body into injury areas. That study is being conducted in association with UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick.

Other positive studies have been published recently by researchers in Australia who have demonstrated that blocking a protein known as EphA4 can rapidly restore balance and limb coordination of those with spinal injuries, and by a University of Nevada team that has developed a method for maintaining lives of critical neurons that often die when confronted with injured body areas.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stem Cell Treatment Repairs Spinal Cord Injuries In Paralyzed Dogs

Scientists have used a special cell to regenerate damaged parts of dogs' spines. Researchers are cautiously excited about these results which could potentially have a future role in the treatment of human patients with similar spinal injuries.

For many years, scientists have been aware that olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) could be helpful in treating the damaged spinal cord because of their distinctive properties. The unique cells have the capacity to support nerve fiber growth that preserves a pathway between the nose and the brain.

Earlier studies consisting of laboratory animals have shown that OECs can be helpful in regeneration of the parts of nerve cells that pass on signals (axons). OECs were used as a bridge linking damaged and undamaged tissues in the spinal cord. A Phase 1 trial in humans with spinal cord injuries has determined that the procedure is safe.

The current study, published in the journal Brain, is the first double-blinded, randomized, controlled study to examine the effectiveness of these transplants to increase function in spinal cord injuries. The trial used animals with spontaneous and accidental spinal cord injuries. This method resembled closely the way the procedure could potentially work for human patients.

The study included 34 dogs that all suffered critical spinal cord injuries (SCIs). A year or more after the injury, the dogs were without the ability to use their legs and were unable to feel pain in their hind legs and adjoining areas.

Several of the dogs were dachshunds, who are extremely prone to this type of injury. Dogs in general are more likely to experience SCIs because they can be caused by a slipped disc, which is normally a minor injury in humans.

One group involved in the study received OECs from the lining of their own nose injected into the injured area. The other group of dogs were injected with only the liquid in which the cells were transplanted. The researchers and the owners were both in the dark about which dogs received which type of injections.

The dogs were analyzed for adverse reactions during a 24 hour period before being returned to their owners. After that, they were tested every month for neurological function and to have their walking manner assessed on a treadmill while being supported in a harness. Specifically, the researchers watched to see if the dogs could coordinate the movement of their front and back legs.

The groups of dogs that received the OEC injection had significant improvement that was not present in the other group. The OEC injection group was able to move previously paralyzed legs and coordinate these movements with their front quarters.

This suggests that in these particular dogs, neuronal messages were being relayed across the formerly damaged part of the spinal cord. The researchers found that the new nerve connections causing this recovery were happening over short distances within the spinal cord and not among long distances needing the brain to connect with the spinal cord.

Professor Robin Franklin, a co-author of the study from the Welcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, said: "Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement.

We're confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that's a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function. It's more likely that this procedure might one day be used as part of a combination of treatments, alongside drug and physical therapies, for example."

The authors emphasize that human patients with a spinal cord injury rate a restoration in sexual function and continence much greater than better mobility. Some dogs in the study got back their bowel and bladder control but the number was not satistically exceptional.

Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine at the MRC, commented: "This proof of concept study on pet dogs with the type of injury sustained by human spinal patients is tremendously important and an excellent basis for further research in an area where options for treatment are extremely limited. It's a great example of collaboration between veterinary and regenerative medicine researchers that has had an excellent outcome for the pet participants and potentially for human patients."

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