Blocking single gene aids spinal cord injuries: researchers

April 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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.