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New research may aid nerve repair in spinal injuries

Posted Nov 08 2012 4:39am


Research carried out by Liverpool and Glasgow Universities has led to a discovery that could be used to enhance the regeneration of nervesBundles of fibres that carry information in the form of electrical impulses. damaged in spinal cord injuries.

It is known that scar tissueA type of connective tissue that forms after a wound heals., which forms after an injury to the spinal cord, creates a barrier to nerveBundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. regeneration, which in turn leads to irreversible paralysis. One possible way to repair nerve damage is to transplant support cells from peripheral nerves, called Schwann cells. The scientists at Liverpool and Glasgow have discovered that these cells secrete long-chain sugars, called heparan sulfates, which help in the process of scar formation. These research findings could lead to new ways of manipulating the scarring process that takes place following spinal cord damage so improving the effectiveness of therapies to repair nerves in patients with spinal injuries.

Professor Jerry Turnbull, from the Institute of Integrative Biology at Liverpool University said: "Spinal injury is a devastating condition and can result in paralysis for life. The sugars we are investigating are produced by nearly every cell in the body, and are similar to the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. thinning drug heparinA substance produced by the body, or given as medication, that reduces the likelihood of the blood to clot, coagulate..

"We found that some sugar types promote scarring reaction, but remarkably other types, which can be chemically produced in the laboratory by modifying heparin, can prevent this in our cell models.

"Studies in animal cells are now needed, but the exciting thing about this work is that it could, in the future, provide a way of developing treatments for improving nerve repair in patients, using the body's own Schwann cells, supplemented with specific sugars."

Professor Sue Barnett, from the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow said: "We had already shown that Schwann cells, identified as having the potential to promote nerve regrowth, induced scarring in spinal cord injury. Now that we know that they secrete these complex sugars, which lead to scarring, we have the opportunity to intervene in this process, and promote central nervous systemThe network of nerves, which are bundles of nerve fibres carrying information in the form of electrical impulses. repair."

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and is published in the Journal of Neuroscience

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