BBC News and a host of other media outlets are featuring an exciting breakthrough in the repair of spinal cord injuries in paralysed rats. The rats have regained bladder control, a major issue for people living with spinal cord injury, in response to nerve cell transplants alongside a series of injections of chondroitinase. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23051516
The project led by Dr Jerry Silver of Case Western Reserve Medical School, Cleveland, Ohio, builds on the findings of a previous project funded by Spinal Research which saw this approach restore independent breathing in rats. An interesting side effect they noted during the original work was the change in bladder function, which prompted the project now making headlines. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14139204
A major hurdle in spinal cord repair is the scar tissue that forms at the site of an injury. This new project’s use of chondroitinase, known to breakdown scarring, in addition to the graft of nerve tissue on the injured spinal cord means that injured nerve cells could regrow – some as long as 2cm. As a result the rats regained bladder function meaning that they could urinate unaided.
Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Research at Spinal Research commented:
“It is increasingly evident that if we can establish better communication between the cord above the injury and the cord below, as Silver and colleagues have, we can engage with an intelligent cord that can make use of even rudimental signals and turn them into functionally useful activities. Coordinated bladder function has enormous beneficial consequences for people with spinal cord injury and this is extremely encouraging work showing we are going in the right direction.”
It is hoped that this approach or similar will eventually be used to help people living with paralysis regain independent bladder control.