29 Sep UCLA Animal Study Finds It is Becoming Possible To Partially Restore Walking By Stimulating Nerve Fibers
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael Sofroniew, MD, PhD
UCLA School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? How did this study differ from your previous work on this topic?
Response: After spinal cord injuries, nerve fibers that are damaged do not spontaneously regrow across injury sites. In previous studies, our group of collaborators identified a combination of interventions that could stimulate damaged nerve fibers to regrow for short distances across injuries, but we found that in spite of this short distance regrowth there was no recovery of functions. The present study examined what type of regrowth might be necessary to re-establish functions.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: First, we identified a group of nerve fibers that when spared after partial spinal cord injuries are able to partially restore walking in spite of the loss of other nerve fibers. We then identified the natural target regions of these spared nerve fibers. We then used a mouse model of complete spinal cord injuries in which all nerve fibers were damaged. Using this mouse model, we targeted interventions to stimulate the nerve fibers that we had identified to regrow across complete spinal cord injuries.
In two different groups of mice we regrew the nerve fibers either only just across the injury site, or across the injury site and then guided the nerve fibers with chemical attractants to regrow all the way to their natural target regions. The mice in which the nerve fibers were regrown all the way to their natural target regions showed a partial recovery of walking similar to that seen after partial spinal cord injuries. Mice in which the nerve fibers were not regrown to their natural target regions showed no recovery at all.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Ours is a proof-of-principle study showing that it is becoming possible to stimulate damaged nerve fibers to regrow across spinal cord injuries and to guide them to their natural target regions by using combinatorial interventions.
In addition, it is important that the partial restoration of walking we observed in this study required not only regrowing damaged nerve fibers across the injury site, but also guiding the nerve fibers to their target region. When the regrowing fibers did not reach their natural target, there was no recovery at all. Lastly, the recovery of walking that we observed was only partial and not perfect.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: There are many different types of nerve fibers that are important for normal walking. Our study examined only one type and the recovery we saw was only partial. Future work will be needed to understand the chemical signals needed to regrow and guide other types of nerve fibers as well, with the hope that this will lead to better functional recovery.
A second important point is that the distances needed for effective regrowth in the rodents we studied is small. A major next step will be to expand our technology to achieve effective regrowth over the longer distances needed in larger animals and humans. This type of longer regrowth will be needed as an important step towards clinical translation.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?
Response: It is important to emphasize that this work is still very experimental and is not yet ready for attempts at clinical translation. There is still much work to do.We have no disclosures.
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Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Marie Benz