Scientists make rats' torn nerves regenerate
When peripheral nerves are ripped from the spinal cord - for example, as a result of a motorcycle accident - there is rarely anything that can be done to get them to reconnect or to restore useful function. Motorcyclists commonly receive brachial avulsion injuries that leave them permanently paralysed without feeling neuropathic pain.
Now scientists in London have devised a way of repairing the connection between torn sensory nerves and the spinal cord (Nature 2000:403;312–6).
Using intrathecal injections of a cocktail of neurotrophic factors, physiologist Matt Ramer and his colleagues at Guy's, King's, and St Thomas's School of Medicine showed that rats with irreparable spinal cord injuries can be restored to health.
“Within one week of injecting the rats, we demonstrated anatomical growth of the nerve roots back into the spinal cord, and by the fourth week we also showed that these connections were working,” says Dr Ramer.