Scientists develop new class of drug that reverses paralysis in mice

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Scientists have developed a new therapy that promotes recovery from spinal cord injury and reverses paralysis in mice, allowing them to walk again within weeks of treatment.

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In research published in the journal Science On Thursday, scientists gave an injection to the tissues surrounding the spinal cord of paralyzed rats. Exactly four weeks later, the rodents can walk again.

The study says that the therapy, given as a gel, works by arranging molecules at the site of injury into an intricate network of nanofibers that mimic the natural matrix found in all tissues, which is involved in wound healing. and play a major role in cell to cell communication. ,


The gel tunes the movement of molecules at injury sites, enabling them to find and properly bind to the constantly moving receptors on cells, said the researchers, including those from Northwestern University in the US.

“The key innovation in our research, which has never been done before, is controlling the collective motion of more than 100,000 molecules within our nanofibers,” said co-author Samuel I.

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One of the challenges in administering wound-healing drugs, the scientists said, is that the receptors clinging to nerve cells and other types of cells are constantly moving around.

The novel gel fixes the motion of molecules that “walk, ‘dance’ or temporarily leap from these structures”, allowing them to bind more effectively with receptors, Dr. .

“Given that the cells themselves and their receptors are in constant motion, you can imagine that the more rapidly moving molecules will encounter these receptors more often,” he said. “If the molecules are sluggish and not as ‘social,’ they may never come into contact with cells.”

When molecules bind to receptors, they trigger two cascading signals important for spinal cord healing.

One of the signals induces regeneration of the long tails of spinal nerve cells, the loss of which often results in loss of sense in the body or even paralysis.

The scientists said that by repairing these nerve cell tails – called axons – communication between the body and the brain could be enhanced.

The second signal, the scientists said, causes the proliferation of other types of cells around nerves, which promotes the regrowth of lost blood vessels that feed neurons and important cells for tissue repair.

One of the challenges in using the body’s natural proteins as drugs is that they degrade too rapidly before they can induce the desired biological responses, the researchers said.

But in the new therapy, by acting like a natural scaffold, the molecules are able to last longer and promote nerve regeneration.

“Our synthetic signals are small, modified peptides that – when bound together by the thousands – will survive for weeks to deliver bioactivity. The end result is a therapy that is less expensive to produce and lasts much longer,” Dr. Jaida Alvarez, the study’s first author and former research assistant professor in Dr. Stoop’s lab, noted.

With further studies and clinical trials, scientists hope the new therapy can be used to prevent paralysis after major trauma caused by automobile accidents, falls, sports accidents and gunshot wounds, as well as diseases. can be done for.

“For decades, this has remained a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, has no significant ability to repair itself after injury or the onset of degenerative disease. No,” said Dr. Stupp.

The scientists added, the underlying discovery of “dance molecules” could be applied to other therapies and targets as well.


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