Researchers at Nagoya University recently identified a gene that plays a vital role in regenerating the neurons of tadpoles. They conducted experiments on African clawed frog tadpoles and discovered that the gene helps aid recovery for spinal cord injuries. Medical experts hope that this discovery will help them develop better medical treatment options for spinal cord injuries. As of right now, there are minimal treatment options outside of physical and occupational therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Injecting the Gene Led to a Partial Recovery
The researchers injected mice with the gene. Specifically, they injected the gene into the mice’s spinal cords and found that the mice who received the injection had partial recovery of their lost motor functions. First, the researchers analyzed the gene expression profiles for tadpoles regarding spinal cord injuries. They discovered that a gene called Neurod4 was expressed during the nerve regeneration process in tadpoles. They hypothesize that using this gene in mice could help aid neural tissue regeneration after an injury.
In humans and other mammals, neural stem cells are activated in the early stages of a spinal cord injury. These neural stem cells will transform into astrocytes, which form rigid scars on the spinal cord. Spinal cord scarring prevents other cells from regenerating and decreasing the damage and motor limitations experienced by spinal cord injury victims.
This Research Could Aid in Spinal Cord Injury Treatment in Humans
When the scientists introduced the neurod4 cells into the activated neural stem cells, it facilitated the production of new relay neurons. They also suppressed the formation of glial scars, making it easier for stem cells to regenerate and improve the hind legs’ function. In many conventional stem cell treatment procedures, a patient’s body will reject the stem cells or form tumors.
The conclusions reached from the study could help prevent that from happening and make stem cell treatment more viable. This research is an important development for spinal cord injury treatment. Treating spinal cord injuries is incredibly difficult in humans and other mammals.
Learning that you have a spinal cord injury can be devastating, mainly because the treatment options are somewhat limited. Spinal cord injury researchers continue to discover breakthroughs like this one that may help patients in the future. These discoveries give spinal cord injury patients hope for the future.