Incredible Treatment Makes Paralyzed Mice Walk Again
A new treatment gives hope that paralysis due to spinal cord damage may one day be reversible. Researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum were able to get paralyzed mice running again after stimulating their brains to produce a certain protein that was then transferred to other areas of the nervous system.
Damage to the spinal cord is extremely difficult to treat because it can sever the nerves that run from the brain to other parts of the body such as limbs, paralyzing people. The fibers in the spinal cord cannot repair themselves, so damage is usually permanent.
To meet this challenge, the researchers used a treatment with the protein hyper-interleukin-6 (hiL-6), which allows these nerve cells to regenerate and grow back. The protein doesn’t occur naturally – it has to be genetically engineered – but once it’s available it can be used to stimulate nerve cells to regrow and repair.
The research team showed for the first time that this protein can reverse paralysis in mice. To make the hiL-6, they stimulated the mice’s brain to produce the protein, which was then distributed to other brain areas and nerve cells. By stimulating the production of the protein in one area of the brain, nerve cells in the spinal cord could be regenerated.
“Ultimately, this enabled the previously paralyzed animals that received this treatment to walk after two to three weeks,” said lead researcher Dietmar Fischer in a statement. “That was a big surprise for us at the beginning, as it has never been proven to be possible after complete paraplegia.”
Two to three weeks after treatment, the previously paralyzed mice began to walk. Department of Cell Physiology
The next step is for the team to investigate whether this method can be used in conjunction with other existing treatments to produce hiL-6 more effectively. And they also want to know if the treatment can be used if you’ve had a recent spinal cord injury in the past few weeks. “This aspect would be particularly relevant for use in humans,” said Fischer. “We are now breaking new scientific ground. These further experiments will show, among other things, whether it will be possible to transfer these new approaches to humans in the future. “
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.