Blocking single gene aids spinal cord injuries: researchers

Apr 22, 2010

Shutting off the function of a single gene in the body could someday help victims of spinal cord injuries avoid paralysis, researchers announced Wednesday.

The discovery potentially opens the door to new treatments and improved long-term recovery from such injuries which often result in life-long damage and sky-high rehabilitation and hospitalization costs.

Researchers said they administered a drug to lab mice and rats that shut off a specific gene which kicks in after a spinal cord injury.

The gene, Abcc8, is part of the body's protective reaction in the event of spinal cord damage.

The gene activates the Sulfonylurea receptor-1 (Sur1) protein, which can paradoxically end up inflicting more damage to the spinal cord's own cells, according to lead researcher Marc Simard of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Sur1 uses sodium to protect cells from an excess of calcium that floods a severely injured area, but the defense mechanism sends the into overdrive, allowing an unchecked influx of sodium into the cells, which can lead to cell death.

"By shutting down the Abcc8 gene that encodes the Sur1 protein the researchers were able to halt the self-destructive process and improve long-term recovery in spinal cord injured mice," according to a summary of the report published in Science Translational Medicine.

Simard's team studied spinal cord tissue from humans, mice and rats and found that the same process of cell death and destruction brought on by Sur1 was present in each of the species.

Shutting the gene off allowed researchers to preserve in the mice, with lesions between one-third and one-fourth the size of those in the control animals.

Researchers neutralized Abcc8 in mice using oligodeoxynucleotide, a short, single strand of DNA which clings to and temporarily blocks their activation.

About half of people with become paraplegic.

A sharp blow on the spine can fracture or dislocate the vertebrae, which in turn can crush and destroy the branches of neurons in the spinal cord which send signals to and from the brain.

Simard's research, which would still need years of clinical trials before a drug using the Abcc8 neutralizer can be sold publicly, lead to treatment which significantly reduces the destruction of nerve tissue in the aftermath of a injury.

Explore further: Tackling illness in premature babies with genetics and artificial noses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stem cells used to reverse paralysis in animals

Jan 28, 2009

A new study has found that transplantation of stem cells from the lining of the spinal cord, called ependymal stem cells, reverses paralysis associated with spinal cord injuries in laboratory tests. The findings show that ...

Stem cells improve damaged spines in mice

Feb 05, 2009

A team of researchers at Keio University has succeeded in improving spinal cord damage in mice by transplanting into them neural stem cells produced with human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, they said.

Recommended for you

New pain relief targets discovered

8 hours ago

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

Building 'smart' cell-based therapies

9 hours ago

A Northwestern University synthetic biology team has created a new technology for modifying human cells to create programmable therapeutics that could travel the body and selectively target cancer and other ...

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

12 hours ago

Stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue, according to a new study from the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...