A team of researchers from different departments at Northwestern University, led by Professor Samuel I. Stupp, has developed a new “revolutionary therapy” of “dancing molecules” that reverses the paralysis and repair serious damage to the spinal cord through a single injection. The study is housed in the journal Science.
“For decades, this has remained a great challenge for scientists, because the central nervous system of our body, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant ability to repair itself after an injury or after the onset of an injury. degenerative disease, ”Stupp stated in an official Northwestern statement.
In addition, the biomedical engineer announced that the team will initiate an approval process in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to apply the therapy in humans, since for the moment they used it on paralyzed mice who regained the ability to walk in four weeks.
One of the important aspects highlighted in the statement is that the injected materials biodegrade into nutrients for the cells within two weeks, that is, no side effects to worry about.
For Stupp, the details of this breakthrough aren’t just about paralysis. “The new science to address spinal cord injury could have an impact on strategies for neurodegenerative diseases and strokes,” he stressed.
The tissues of the central nervous system successfully cared for in the spinal cord resemble those of the brain when you are affected by strokes and neurodegenerative diseases, for example Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson’s disease.
The goal is to keep the molecules moving so that they activate cell receptors. When injected in liquid form, this therapy gels into nanofibers capable of mimicking the extracellular matrix of the spinal cord. In that coincidence, a ‘dance’ of signals is triggered. The method even worked in in vitro tests with human cells..
One of the signals causes the axons – prolongation of the neurons conducting nerve impulses – regenerate: these increase communication between the body and the brain. While the second signal promotes the growth of lost blood vessels that feed neurons and other cells that repair tissues.
Zaida Álvarez, first author of the study, said the end result is less expensive to produce and lasts much longer. “The signals used in the study mimic the natural proteins that are needed to induce the desired biological responses,” he added.
This news rekindles the hope of those who cannot live normally because their bodies do not respond to stimuli. Since the 1980s, medicine has not announced a better life expectancy for those with spinal cord damage. therefore, this would be the breaking point.
“Less than 3% of people with complete injuries ever regain basic physical functions. And approximately 30% are readmitted at least once during a given year after the initial injury, costing millions of dollars in average lifetime health care costs per patient, ”the statement said.