German researchers enabled mice that were paralyzed after spinal cord injury to walk again. By using engineered proteins injected into the brain, they re-established neural connections that have been previously thought to be impossible to repair in mammals.
Human spinal cord injuries usually caused by sports or traffic accidents paralyze them because not all nerve fibers that transmit information between the muscles and the brain can grow.
But researchers at the Ruhr University in Bochum managed to use a design protein to stimulate the regeneration of nerve cells in paralyzed mice.
The research team leader Dietmar Fischer said in an interview with Reuters: “The special thing about this study is that the protein is not only used to stimulate those self-generated nerve cells, but can also be further carried (through the brain).”
“In this way, with relatively small interventions, we can stimulate a large amount of nerve regeneration, which is ultimately why the mice walk again.”
He said the paralyzed rodents that received treatment started walking after two to three weeks.
According to the university’s website, this treatment involves injecting a carrier of genetic information into the brain to produce a protein called “interleukin 6.”
The team is studying whether treatment can be improved.
“We also have to see if our method is applicable to larger mammals. For example, we think of pigs, dogs or primates.”
“Then, if it works there, we will have to make sure that the therapy is also safe for humans. But it will definitely take many years.”