Researchers in the United States have conducted the tests and have regenerated mature nerve cells in rodent spinal cords.
Their findings reveal how the glial cells, the most abundant cellular type in the nervous system, can be transformed into more primitive cells. These new cells then become adult nerve cells.
The regeneration of mature nerve cells is an also important achievement that can improve therapy for patients who have injuries or lesions on their spinal cords.
Most noteworthy, one of the authors of the study, Chun-Li Zhang, has said that they’ve laid the groundwork for regenerative medicine for spinal cord injuries.
Cellular regeneration can be used to create new nerve cells following an injury to the marrow.
Once the results are confirmed by future studies, these strategies can pave the way for using a patient’s own glial cells. This would avoid the need for transplantation or immuno-suppressant therapy.
Injuries to the spinal cordAs you probably know, injuries to the spinal cord can cause irreversible damage to the neural network there. In more severe cases, it can compromise motor and sensory functions.
It’s also important to remember that a spinal cord doesn’t have to lose a full section to suffer a loss of function. It’s very common that most of the marrow remains intact after a spinal cord injury.
Opposite of what you might think, spinal cord injuries do not always directly relate to back or neck injuries. Disks within the vertebrae can rupture, diseases may affect the spinal column, and more.
In fact, it’s perfectly normal to have an injury to the neck or back but no damage to the spinal cord.
Grants at the National Center for Paraplegics
The National Hospital for Paraplegics, located in Toledo, Ohio and partly funded by the Health Service of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). The Hospital has received five million euros from the European Commission.
Additionally, a project known as neurofibers used the European funding.
It involves the study and development of bio-functional microfibers that can treat a spinal cord injury.
Neurofiber projectThis project was one of 12 that were selected from more than 200 that were submitted to the European Program of Future Emerging Technologies (FET).
Dr. Jorge Eduardo Collazos is the director and coordinator of the project. A consortium made up of seven research groups from six European countries also assists him.
He also directs the Laboratory for Neural Repair and Biomaterials at the National Paraplegic Hospital.
- The neurofiber project is for four years, from January 2017 to December 2020.
- Developing biologically safe and effective devices requires electroactive support for the regeneration of the central nervous system, as well as the activation of neural circuits within the spinal cord itself.
Research on this project is two-fold: on the one hand, the project team is improving microfiber properties. On the other hand, they are studying the utility of this new technology to promote neural growth.
Furthermore, the project coordinators have stated that the study will focus on:
- Tests to check biocompatibility
- The regenerative response of nerve tissue
- The functional recovery time for motor and sensory abilities
The participation of surgeons is an important component of the project. They will be able to develop new complex surgical techniques.
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Neuroprosthesis from microfibers
With these new microfibers, more effective neuroprostheses develop and integrate into the spinal cord.
Most of all, among their advantages is greater sensitivity in stimulating and receiving signals from neurons through the use of metal electrodes.
In addition, it reduces the damage done to the patient.
Finally, microfibers have an enormous potential that we have yet to discover and harness. At the same time, while they can regenerate tissue they also help activate the growth of the glial cells and neurons.