Scientists Discover Spinal Cord Repairing Genes in Humans

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According to a new study published in Science Daily on January 15, 2018, reveals that the peripheral nervous system of mammals have genes that help naturally repair the injured spinal cord.

A group of scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and other institutions collaboratively discovered that the genes involved in natural repair of the lamprey are also active in the peripheral nervous system in mammals.

“We found a large overlap with the hub of transcription factors that are driving regeneration in the mammalian peripheral nervous system,” says Jennifer Morgan, an author of the study.

Lampreys are jawless, eel-like fish that shared common ancestral origin with humans around 550 million years ago. This study observed that a lamprey can fully recover from a severed spinal cord without medication or other treatment in 10 to 12 weeks.

“Scientists have known for many years that the lamprey achieves spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, but we have not known the molecular recipe that accompanies and supports this remarkable capacity,” says Ona Bloom of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

“In this study, we have determined all the genes that change during the time course of recovery and now that we have that information, we can use it to test if specific pathways are actually essential to the process,” Bloom says.

The research involved taking brain and spinal cord samples following the lampreys’ healing process at multiple points in time. Researchers analyzed the material to determine which genes and signaling pathways were activated as compared to a non-injured lamprey. This resulted in the discovery that several genes associated with spinal cord healing are part of the Wnt signaling pathway, which plays a role in tissue development.

This discovery has the potential to improve spinal cord injury treatments, resulting in repaired spinal cords, just as observed in a lamprey.

Increasing incidence of spinal cord injuries have resulted in an increasing demand for spinal fusion surgeries, which require spinal fusion devices, as per Spinal Fusion Devices Market report published by Coherent Market Insights. This development is expected to create scope for spinal fusion surgeries in the near future.

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