The latest news and information about what's going on with SCI science and research. Brought to you by Sam Maddox, author of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Guide.

Respiratory Regeneration: Major Study

A major new paper from scientist Jerry Silver: Functional Regeneration of Axons that Control Respiration After Spinal Cord Injury, published in Nature, funded in part by the Reeve Foundation. [tp:readmore]

Dr. Silver, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, is a member of the Reeve Foundation Science Advisory Council.

From a Nature press release:

A new double-pronged approach to spinal cord repair prompts regeneration and significantly improves respiratory function in rats, a Nature paper reveals.

The technique, devised by Jerry Silver and colleagues, involves grafting a piece of the host’s own peripheral nerve to ‘bridge’ the damaged section of spinal cord, and subsequent treatment with a chondroitinase enzyme. The graft contains cells that help nourish and guide the regrowth of damaged nerves, whilst the enzyme breaks down regeneration-blocking inhibitory molecules and helps spared nerve cells generate new connections.

Spinal cord injuries often occur ‘high up’ the spinal cord close to the skull, severing nerve connections to the diaphragm and causing serious respiratory problems. This study suggests that regeneration and restoration of diaphragm function may be possible after certain types of spinal cord trauma.

From the paper:

Our experiments show that in adult rats, robust activation of a critical muscle that is paralyzed by spinal cord injury can be returned through long distance regeneration of axons into the vicinity of motor neurons in the denervated grey matter. EMG recordings showed that recovery takes place very slowly but is remarkably strong when it finally manifests.

Overall, these experiments present a way to markedly restore the function of a single muscle after debilitating trauma to the central nervous system, through both promoting the plasticity of spared tracts and regenerating essential pathways.

In photo: Researcher Warren Alilain, left, now at MetroHealth Medical Center, and CWRU neuroscientist Jerry Silver, developed a method of re-growing and re-routing spinal nerve fibers to restore breathing in partially paralyzed rats.
Courtesy of Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer

Posted by Sam Maddox on Jul 13, 2011 1:06 PM America/New_York