Spinal repair potential to restore impaired breathing

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 in Health, Life Insurance

US researchers have successfully carried out a spinal repair treatment in mice. The treatment has been able to restore breathing which had previously become impaired following an injury.

The treatment works by applying a nerve graft with a protein to the damaged spinal cord. It is hoped that it could restore breathing to human patients who are unable to breathe without assistance after an injury to their spinal cord.

Approximately 800 spinal cord injuries occur in the UK every year. Nearly half of these are in the neck. Damage to the spinal cord in the neck can prevent or impair messages from being delivered to the diaphragm, which controls breathing. Most people who sustain a neck injury and damage the spinal cord will go on to suffer a degree of impairment in their breathing.

The spinal cord is known to be difficult to repair. When it becomes damaged, it becomes scarred and can prevent nerves from repairing and forming new connections.

Trials in mice have shown that when they were injected with an enzyme called chondoitinase ABC at the same time as a nerve graft was being applied, the enzyme attacked the molecules which inhibit the nerve repair, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. In later tests, the mice went on to show that they had recovered 80-100% of their breathing function.

Researchers are hoping to now begin trials of the surgery in humans. Furthermore, they are investigating whether the same treatment can restore impaired bladder function, which can occur when the lower spine is injured.

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