A paralyzed mouse has returned to walking after a complete spinal cord injury: recovery was possible thanks to an innovative therapy that not only promotes nerve regeneration, a result already obtained in 2018 by the same research group led by the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne, but also allows them to rejoin their natural goals within the body, restoring mobility. The study, published in the journal Science, takes the first steps towards the development of the technology necessary to make this therapy also available for human patients, although there are still many obstacles to overcome. The mice on which the therapy was tested regained the ability to walk, with a gait that resembled that of mice recovered from only partial lesions.
The therapy works on multiple fronts
“Five years ago, we demonstrated that nerve fibers can be regenerated even through anatomically complete spinal cord injuries,” comments Mark Anderson of the Swiss NeuroRestore center and the Wyss Center research foundation, one of the authors of the study led by Jordan Squair. “But we also realized that this was not enough to restore motor function,” adds Anderson, “as the new fibers failed to connect to the right points on the other side of the lesion.” The researchers have thus developed a new therapy that works simultaneously on several fronts: it activates the genes responsible for the regeneration of nerve fibers, regulates the proteins that help this growth and also administers guidance molecules that attract the nerves undergoing repair towards the their natural targets beyond the lesion.