A successful gene therapy has allowed rats with spinal cord injury to regain feeling in their legs.
Researchers at the Institute of Experimental Medicine at the Czech Academy of Sciences (IEM CAS), in Prague (pictured), showed that a therapy based on inserting genes into injured neurons to allow them to repair and grow could treat spinal cord injuries where damaged nerves led to a loss of sensation and muscle wasting.
Injured rats given the gene therapy regained sensitivity in their hind legs to ‘almost pre-injury levels’.
These final results were part of the six-year NEURORECON project to treat nerve conditions in people.
Other findings with the potential to improve treatments include the discovery that cellular matter in the brain can be manipulated with specific drugs, to boost the brain’s ability to develop and relay information.
When rats, when given a drug usually used for gallbladder problems, the team saw that new nerve fibres grew around the damaged tissue and the animals’ movement abilities improved.
Project leader Pavla Jendelová, at IEM CAS, emphasised: “Before a drug can go beyond the doors of our laboratories, it will need to be thoroughly tested for the right dosage and monitored for possible side effects.”