Gene therapy reverses rat’s paralysis

Latest news

    Media playback is unsupported on your device

    Media captionParalysed rat picks up sugar cube after gene therapy repairs spinal cord

    Scientists say they have taken a significant step towards the goal of giving paralysed people control of their hands again.

    The team at King’s College London used gene therapy to repair damage in the spinal cord of rats.

    The animals could then pick up and eat sugar cubes with their front paws.

    It is early stage research, but experts said it was some of the most compelling evidence that people’s hand function could one day be restored.

    The spinal cord is a dense tube of nerves carrying instructions from the brain to the rest of the body.

    The body repairs a wounded spinal cord with scar tissue.

    However, the scar acts like a barrier to new connections forming between nerves.

    How the gene therapy works

    The researchers were trying to dissolve components of the scar tissue in the rats’ spinal cord.

    They needed to give cells in the cord a new set of genetic instructions – a gene – for breaking down the scar.

    The instructions they gave were for an enzyme called chondroitinase. And they used a virus to deliver them.

    Finally, a drug was used to activate the instructions.

    The animals regained use of their front paws after the gene therapy had been switched on for two months.

    Dr Emily Burnside, one of the researchers, said: “The rats were able to accurately reach and grasp sugar pellets.

    “We also found a dramatic increase in activity in the spinal cord of the rats, suggesting that new connections had been made in the networks of nerve cells.”

    The researchers hope their approach will work for people injured in car crashes or falls.

    Prof Elizabeth Bradbury told the BBC: “We find this really exciting, recovery of this type of function, because for spinal injured patients their highest priority is to get their hand function back.

    “Being able to pick up a coffee cup, hold a toothbrush, these types of things will have a dramatic increase on their quality of life and their independence.”

    In 2014, a paralysed man was able to walk with a frame after cells from inside his nose were used to regenerate part of his spinal cord.

    The patient, Darek Fidyka, was injured in a knife attack that caused a different type of wound to those in car crashes.

    The gene therapy approach is not yet ready for human clinical trials.

    Dr Mark Bacon, from the charity Spinal Research, told the BBC: “The data is some of the most compelling I’ve seen demonstrating restoration of skilled forelimb function.

    “It’s exciting, but getting approval for gene therapies represents a particular, but not insurmountable, challenge to getting it to the clinic.

    “Transferred to the clinic, this research could be life-changing for the millions of people worldwide with paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury.”

    Follow James on Twitter.

    View the original article:

    In the same category are

    Canada becomes second country to legalise recreational marijuana Image copyright Getty Images Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalise possession and use of recreational cannabis.The nationwi...
    Brexit: ‘Expectations low’ as PM heads to Brussels Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionBBC Europe editor Katya Adler looks at how united the EU really is over BrexitTheresa May ...
    US moves to negotiate trade deals with Japan, UK, EU Image copyright Getty Images The US has said it intends to negotiate three separate trade agreements with Japan, the UK and the EU.It could take se...
    Gender Recognition Act: ‘Why we want identity rules changed’ Image copyright Rory Darling If you want to legally change your gender in the UK, first you have to be diagnosed with a mental illness.A transgender...
    Self-lubricating condom designed to reduce infections Image copyright Getty Images Scientists say they have found a way to make self-lubricating latex condoms that become slippery on contact.It is thank...
    ‘I’ve never had this much attention’ Image copyright Getty Images Interviewing Jamie Lee Curtis is almost as terrifying as her new film.The 60-year-old is someone who will give you a to...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.