Digital Tbucket Tank (DTT)

Star Trek Today: Scientists get paralyzed mice back on their feet

Spinal cord injuries usually lead to permanent disabilities such as B. Paraplegia. Research at the Ruhr University Bochum gives hope to change this. Researchers there managed to get paralyzed mice back on their feet. This turned out to be the key in applied therapy Protein hyper-interleukin-6that stimulates the nerve cells to regenerate. The way in which it was given to the animals was also important. The paralysis caused by the damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. At least that's how it has been so far, but thanks to a new therapeutic approach, scientists at the Ruhr University in Bochum, under the direction of Professor Dietmar Fischer, have succeeded in getting paralyzed mice running again.

A description of the research appeared in the journal Nature Communications

Reference to Star Trek Episode: The Next Generation: Season 5 / Episode 116 - The Operation / Ethics

"Meanwhile, Dr. Russel reports that she invented a genetronic generator that can be used to replicate entire organs. In simulations, her success rate was quite high. Dr. Crusher does not want to allow Russel an Worf to try this technique for the first time on a real patient because the chances of success seem far too low to her."

Image source: Pixabay

Regeneration-promoting protein

Spinal cord injuries caused by sports or traffic accidents usually result in a permanent disability - biplegia, which more often affects the lower limbs. That's because nerve fibers that Axons are damaged and prevent the brain from sending signals to neurons below the injury site. If these fibers are damaged by injury or illness, communication is simply interrupted, and then severed Axons If the spinal cord does not grow back by itself, patients suffer from lifelong paralysis.

There are currently no treatment options that can restore lost function in affected patients. In search of possible therapies, a team from the Ruhr University Bochum worked with the Protein hyper-interleukin-6 (hIL-6) employed. This protein is genetically engineered Cytokine, ie it does not occur naturally in this form and is genetically engineered.

Specific method of administration

Dietmar Fischer's working group has shown in previous studies that hIL-6 can effectively stimulate the regeneration of nerve cells in the visual system. In the new study, the scientists induced nerve cells in the sensorimotor cortex to do this on their own Hyper-interleukin-6 to produce.

To do this, they used inactive viruses suitable for gene therapy, which they injected into an easily accessible area of ​​the brain. In a somewhat simplified way, one can say that the viruses delivered the plans for the production of the protein to certain nerve cells, the so-called motor neurons. Since these cells are about axonal Side branches are also connected to other nerve cells in other areas of the brain, which are also important for motor processes such as walking, hIL-6 was also transported directly to these hard-to-reach areas.

Paralyzed mice back on their feet

- The gene therapy applied to a few nerve cells stimulated the regeneration of Axons different nerve cells in the brain and several motor pathways in the spinal cord at the same time, says Dietmar Fischer. - Ultimately, previously paralyzed animals that received this treatment were able to get back on their feet after two to three weeks. This came as a big surprise to us as this had never been shown before in total paraplegia, he adds. The team is now investigating the extent to which this or similar approaches can be combined with other active ingredients in order to further optimize hyper-interleukin-6 delivery and to achieve additional therapeutic goals. The scientists are also investigating whether Hyper-interleukin-6 has lasting effects.

- This aspect would be particularly important for use on humans. Further experiments will show whether our method can also be used in humans in the future, says Fischer.