Scientists created a paralysis-healing gel that helped mice walk again after they had suffered spinal cord injuries.
The results from a study by Samuel Stup , and his collaborators at Northwestern University in Chicago have shown remarkable results. According to the study, which was published in the latest volume of Science, the gel mimics the matrix that is traditionally found around the body’s cells. The cells were able to grow thanks to this scaffold.
SCIENCE NEWS: How paralysis healing gel helped mice walk again
Stupp created the gel with his colleagues. The substance contains monomers, which are protein units. When water is introduced to these proteins, they can form long chains known as supramolecular fibrils. The fibrils formed the final gel around the injury after being injected. The cells were able to begin regenerating and reconnecting.
Scientists injected 76 mice with the fibrils as well as a placebo substance. After four weeks, the mice treated with fibrils were able to walk again. The placebo was not given to the mice.
The gel allowed the nerves to regenerate from the damaged ends. This reduced scar tissue at the site of injury. The barrier of regeneration is often formed by scar tissue. Therefore, it was possible to reduce the amount of scar tissue and allow for faster healing. The gel allowed for more nutrients to be delivered to the injured spinal cord cells.
SCIENCE NEWS: How scientists measured its effectiveness
A research scientist working in a laboratory. Image source: JHDT Productions/Adobe
While all the mice injected with the treatment were able to walk, not all of the results were the same. Researchers assessed the mice’s ability to walk in several ways. The first was how they moved their ankles, followed by their body stability and placement of their feet. The treatment mice scored three times more than the ones who received the placebo. To see how the mice walked on narrow areas of white paper, their legs were also coated with colored dyes. The gel injected mice showed a longer stride and wider stride.
” A longer stride and a wider width should correspond with more regrown axons, (nerve fibers), innervating the legs,” Stupp stated in the article. (via NewScientist)
Short chains of amino acids attach at the ends of monomer proteins to enable the regenerative effect. These sequences provided the signals needed to regenerate cells by the receptors at the surface of the spine cord.
Scientists warn that scaling from mouse-based therapies for humans is difficult. It is not clear how these findings can be translated into human-based recovery options.