When a human suffers a
spinal cord injury (SCI), the damage done to his or her nerve connections is permanent, rendering
him or her debilitated or even paralyzed. However, when lower vertebrates
like the sea lamprey, a fish that has the appearance of an eel, experience
injury to their spinal cord, they are able to recover thanks to their
ability to regenerate nerve connections. Researchers at University of
Missouri wondered why and embarked on a study to find the answer. They
recently found some answers that could open up new SCI treatment possibilities
for humans, according to a report by
The researchers focused on the reticulospinal neurons, which are found
in the brainstem and are needed for locomotion. These neurons transmit
signals to the spinal cord, dictating the body’s movements. Damage
to these often results in paralysis below the affected area for humans
and other higher vertebrates. Sea lamprey and other lower vertebrates
can restore reticulospinal neurons, making it possible for them to regain
motor function within a few weeks.
To find out more about the mechanism behind this regeneration process,
researchers isolated injured reticulospinal neurons from sea lamprey.
They stimulated certain molecules with chemicals and closely observed
the effects. They noticed that when activated, cyclic AMP, a molecule
responsible for transmitting chemical signals in cells, instigated the
conversion of neurons to a growth state. Neurons already in the process
of growth were not affected.
Director of the MU Spinal Cord Injury Program, Andrew McClellan, believes
that the study’s findings may have implications for the possibility
of neural regeneration in humans and other mammals.
“In mammals, cyclic AMP does appear to enhance neural regeneration
within the central nervous system in an environment that normally inhibits
regeneration,” he said. “Cyclic AMP seems to be able to overcome
some of these inhibitory factors and promotes at least some regeneration.
Hopefully our studies with the lamprey can provide a list of conditions
that are important for neural regeneration to help guide therapies in
higher vertebrates, and possibly in humans.”
The northern California SCI attorneys at Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP
were happy to hear about this new scientific development. We hope it leads
to great strides in SCI treatment, improving the lives of SCI patients