Sunday, December 11, 2005

Researchers Discover Nerve Regeneration May Be Possible After Spinal Cord Injuries

A team of scientists at the University of California San Francisco have made a significant discovery that may help people recover following a spinal cord injury.

For the purpose of the study, scientists stimulated nerve cells in laboratory rats at the time of spinal cord injury and then again one week later. The growth capacity of nerve cells was increased and sustained which can be crucial for nerve regeneration following this type of injury.

An important distinction was made between the properties of nerve fibers of the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord, and those of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is the network of nerve fibers that extends throughout the body.

When cells from the CNS experience an injury, they are unable to regenerate by themselves while PNS cells can regrow following an injury.

This regeneration is possible because PNS cell bodies can sense damage to their nerve processes and respond by sending out a signal that triggers the nerve fibers to regenerate.

The team of researchers used a new technique which was able to apply the principles of PNS cell growth to CNS cells by using a type of nerve fiber that has both a PNS and a CNS branch, forging new ground in relation to spinal cord injuries.

The researchers had conducted an animal study and found that an injury made to the peripheral branch preceding a spinal cord injury was able to provide the necessary communication signal which facilitated growth in the CNS branch. This only worked, however, if the PNS injury occurred at least one week before the CNS injury.

According to Allan Basbaum, PhD, senior study author: ?A PNS injury at the time of spinal cord damage will only promote growth of nerve fibers into the spinal cord lesion but not into the tissue beyond it. This is because growth capacity is enhanced, but it is not sustained.?

Basbaum argues that timing is everything in relation to successful nerve regeneration for spinal cord injuries. If too much time lapses after the injury, the cells will revert back to their normal state which inhibits regrowth. In addition, scar tissue begins to form which makes regeneration difficult.

The goal of Basbaum?s team is to achieve regeneration of nerve fibers and to sustain this growth long enough so that spinal cord patients can experience recovery of movement.

Source: Newsinferno News Staff