Researchers have successfully repaired damaged spinal cords in mice, restoring the animals' ability to breath in what could be a major breakthrough in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. According to a paper published yesterday in the journal Nature, scientists from Case Western University in Cleveland were able to successfuly patch areas of damaged spinal cord. Previous efforts to repair spinal cord tissue have proved ineffective. In the Case Western study, reserachers grafted nerve tissue onto the section of damaged cord, then injected it with an enzyme called chondoitinase ABC. Other attempts at nerve grafts have failed, perhaps because the spinal cord rapidly scars after injury, blocking the transmission of signals through the nervous system. Chondoitinase appears to undo some of the effects of that scarring, allowing the nerve tissue to form a bridge across the injury. The researchers hope to try the procedure in human trials. "It is potentially life-changing if this or similar techniques can be translated to the clinic," says Mark Bacon, a doctor with the non-profit of Spinal Research organization.
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