Tuesday, October 26, 2004

New Ways to Reverse Paralysis

Each year, more than 11,000 people will become paralyzed in the United States. It happens in a split second, but it changes lives forever.

Researchers are constantly looking for ways to reverse the condition. Now there is a promising discovery that could put them on the fast track.

Neuroscientist Mary Bartlett Bunge has found her passion at the Miami Project to cure paralysis. "These are the most exciting findings that I have seen in my laboratory in my 15 years on the Miami Project."

In a three-year study, Bunge restored walking ability in paralyzed rats to up to 70 percent normal function. "To see something for the first time is a creative and thrilling experience."

The therapy combines three treatments believed to help paralysis. One of those treatments is schwann cells. "Schwann cells enable regeneration of neuro-fibers in the peripheral nervous system that is in your legs and arms."

Cyclic AMP is also used. It's injected into the spinal cord to improve the growth of neuro-fibers. And the antidepressant rolipram is used to maintain the AMP at high levels.

"This finding opens up new possibilities for treating humans with spinal cord injury," Dr. Bunge said.

Dan Castellanos was paralyzed more than 20 years ago. He's now a researcher himself at the Miami Project and calls Bunge's research a breakthrough. "I think it is revolutionary and it comes at a really important time."

He's excited about the implications. "I think it shows great potential and I think it is a good time to be here and it is a good time to be watching."

You can bet both scientists and patients are going to be watching and waiting.

Bunge said the combination showed the most benefit, but the antidepressant rolipram was also effective when used alone.

She said there are still many questions that need to be answered before this combination can be tested in humans.

By: Ivanhoe Newswire