In what could be the first significant step towards recovery from paralysis, a team of researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany enabled a paralyzed mice to walk again.
The team was able to re-establishing a neural link damaged due to spinal cord injuries that was previously deemed as irreparable in mammals by using a designer protein injected into the brain.
The success of the trial offers a great impetus to a possible recovery methodology for humans who often suffer from spinal cord injuries that are caused by sports or traffic accidents and leave them paralyzed as not all of the nerve fibers that carry information between muscles and the brain are able to grow back.
Speaking about the success of the trial, Prof. Dietmar Fischer, head of the research team remarked that “The special thing about our study is that the protein is not only used to stimulate those nerve cells that produce it themselves but that it is also carried further (through the brain).”
The team of researchers had managed to stimulate the paralyzed mice’s nerve cells by injecting carriers of genetic information into the brain to produce the protein, called hyper-interleukin-6 which enabled regeneration.
“In this way, with a relatively small intervention, we stimulate a very large number of nerves to regenerate and that is ultimately the reason why the mice can walk again,” Prof. Fischer shared further adding that the paralyzed rodents that received the treatment started walking after two to three weeks.
The team will now continue its quest to see if the treatment can be further improved to function “on larger mammals such as pigs, dogs or primates.”
“Then, if it works there, we would have to make sure that the therapy is safe for humans too. But that will certainly take many, many years,” the head of the research team concluded.