By Sebastian Komaritsky ’25
A team of researchers from UCLA, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Harvard University have discovered a crucial part of restoring function after a spinal injury. The scientists discovered in September of 2023 that regrowing specific neurons back to their regions led to more recovery compared to random regrowth. Tiny fibers that link nerve cells enable them to communicate back and forth, this leads to axon regeneration which is difficult to acquire and is necessary for spinal function. Even after this functional recovery remains a challenge, advanced genetic analysis to identify nerve cell groups that enabled walking after partial spinal cord injury. Reestablishing specific neurons to their specific neurons of their natural target region is promising to therapies aimed at restoring spinal function.
However, researchers are aware of the difficulty of achieving this in bigger animals including humans since promoting regeneration over longer distances is a lot more difficult than in mice. The scientists and researchers conclude “Our study provides crucial insights into the intricacies of axon regeneration and requirements for functional recovery after spinal cord injuries,” said Michael Sofroniew, MD, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a senior author of the new study. “It highlights the necessity of not only regenerating axons across lesions but also of actively guiding them to reach their natural target regions to achieve meaningful neurological restoration.” (Sofroniew, 2023).
Scientists and researchers working on the project hope that their work can be used in a wider context “will unlock the framework to achieve meaningful repair of the injured spinal cord and may expedite repair after other forms of central nervous system injury and disease.”. They hope that as technology advances they can use their research not only to treat spinal injuries in larger animals and humans but in other areas of medicine connected such as the central nervous system and diseases.
Environmental News Network – Scientists Regenerate Neurons That Restore Walking in Mice After Paralysis From Spinal Cord Injury. 21 Sept. 2023, http://www.enn.com/articles/73347-scientists-regenerate-neurons-that-restore-walking-in-mice-after-paralysis-from-spinal-cord-injury.
Scientists Regenerate Neurons That Restore Walking in Mice after Paralysis from Spinal Cord Injury. http://www.uclahealth.org/news/scientists-regenerate-neurons-restore-walking-mice-after. Accessed 11 Oct. 2023.X, Science. Scientists Regenerate Neurons That Restore Walking in Mice after Paralysis from Spinal Cord Injury. Phys.org, 23 Sept. 2023, phys.org/news/2023-09-scientists-regenerate-neurons-mice-paralysis.html.