Growth Cocktail Helps Restore Spinal Connections in the Most Severe Injuries
Repairing damaged nerves in a rodent study marks a crucial first step toward bringing back lost movement
⦁ By ⦁ Emily Willingham on August 30, 2018
In 1995 the late actor Christopher Reeve, who most famously played Superman, became paralyzed from the neck down after a horseback-riding accident. The impact from the fall left him with a complete spinal cord injury at the neck, preventing his brain from communicating with anything below it. Cases like Reeve’s are generally considered intractable injuries, absent any way to bridge the gap to restore disrupted communication lines.
When Reeve died in 2004 a means of reconnection had yet to be built. Now, 14 years later, researchers have coaxed nerve cells to span the divide of a complete spinal cord injury. Their findings, described August 29 in Nature, are specific to only one kind of nerve cell and much work remains before a means of reconnection reaches patients, but the results make an impression. “From the scientific perspective, this is pretty significant,” says Yu-Shang Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, who was not involved in the study. “As far as scientific impact, it is a good leap.”