In America, around 300,000 people live with a spinal cord injury. Of those people, only around 3% ever recover the basic functionality that they had before the injury occurred. Many of these patients end up in the hospital for complications of the injury, and they may have a shorter life expectancy than those who do not have an injury to the spinal cord.
In the past, the likelihood of recovering from an acute (severe) spinal cord injury was not usually good. Most people assumed that damage to the spinal cord would be permanent once the injury stabilized. Even with physical therapy, many injuries would improve minimally or not at all.
Today, there is new research going on that involves technology that may help patients with spinal cord injuries recover in ways that were not possible in the past. At Northwestern University, researchers have developed an injectable therapy that uses so-called “dancing molecules” to repair damage after a spinal cord injury. This could, potentially, help reverse paralysis and other symptoms.
In a study released by the researchers, they used the injection in paralyzed mice. In just four weeks, each of those animals was able to walk again.
How does the new treatment work?
In the research study, bioactive signals were used to trigger cells to regenerate and repair themselves. There were five noted ways that the injuries improved in the mice, including that the:
- Severed axons regenerated
- Scar tissue decreased
- Myelin reformed around cells
- Motor neurons in the region survived more often than prior to the treatment
- Functional blood vessels reformed and were able to deliver nutrients to cells throughout the injured area
These are all excellent signs that the therapy could work to repair spinal cord injuries, but the research is still new. Researchers stated that they would like to go to the Food and Drug Administration with this therapy to see if they can begin the process of getting it approved for use in humans. As of today, those with spinal cord injuries have few treatment options. This would be one of the newest, and potentially beneficial, options that has been developed in recent years.