American scientists claim to have made progress in repairing spinal cord injury in some people paralyzed guinea pig. Guinea pigs have recovered part of the bladder control after surgery that has transplanted them certain nerve cells in the spinal cord, combined with injections of a cocktail of chemicals. The study, published in the "Journal of Neuroscience", could raise hopes for the treatment of patients paralyzed, but UK experts say it will take several years of research before human clinical trials can be considered.
Scientists have been trying for decades to use transplants of nerve cells to restore function in paralyzed animals, so as to bridge the gap with the spinal cord. However, so far attempts to grow and form new connections between the cells have proven fruitless: a problem is the growth of scar tissue as compared to the body responds to the lesion, which appears to block cell regeneration. "If we can prove in a laboratory animal bigger that our technique works and does not create additional damage, I see no reason why we should not be able to move quickly in humans," said Dr. Jerry Silver at Case Western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio.
American scientists have performed complex surgery to transplant nerves from the ribs of the guinea pigs in the middle of their spinal cord; also they used a special "glue" that stimulates the growth of cells with a chemical that breaks down scar tissue in an attempt to encourage nerve cells to regenerate and reconnect.
The researchers found for the first time that damaged nerve cells can regrow some "extraordinarily long distances" and, although the mice / guinea pig not have regained the ability to walk, however, have recovered some bladder function. Dr. Silver at Case Western Reserve Medical School, has confirmed: "Even if the animals have not regain the ability to walk, they did recover a significant measure of urinary control." The co-author, Dr. Shang-Yu Lee of the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, added: "This is the first time that bladder function was restored significantly by nerve regeneration after a spinal injury." The findings may help future efforts to restore other lost functions after spinal cord injury and also raise hope similar strategies could one day be used to restore bladder function in people. Dr. Silver has confirmed it will take further experiments to see if the technique may work in humans.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Elizabeth Bradbury King's College London, noted that there are several challenges to overcome before the therapy can be tested on patients. "It takes a lot of evaluations and still many steps before this therapy can be used in hospitals," he said. "However this is a major step forward, which offers great hope for the future to restore bladder function in patients with spinal damage and, if these challenges can be met, we could reach the stage of clinical trials within three to five years."
Dr John Williams, head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, said however that the implications for individuals are not yet clear: "This is certainly one of the ways we can approach the solution to restore the function of the bladder in patients paralyzed, but it will take many careful studies to figure out which of the technologies in question could be of greater benefit to the sick. "
June 26, 2013