Research on new medicine brings hope of cure for paralysis

Scientists in the United States have developed a new type of drug that promotes cell regeneration and reversed paralysis in rats with spinal injuries, allowing the animals to walk again after four weeks of treatment.

The research was published in the journal Science this Thursday (10) and the team responsible, from Northwestern University, said they hope to present their treatment next year to the regulatory agency for drugs from the US, the FDA, to be able to initiate human trials.

“The aim of our research was to develop a transferable therapy that could be used in hospitals to prevent paralysis in people due to traumas and illnesses,” study leader Samuel Stupp told AFP.

Curing paralysis is a long-standing goal of medicine and other innovative research in the field includes experimental treatments with stem cells to produce new neurons , gene therapy that orders in the body to produce certain proteins to help with the recovery of the nervous system and the direct injection of proteins.

Stupp’s team, in turn, used nanofibers to mimic the architecture of the “extracellular matrix” , a network of molecules that naturally develop around cell tissue.

Each nanofiber is a thousand times thinner than a human hair and they are made up of hundreds of thousands of molecules called peptides, which transmit signals to promote nerve regeneration.

The gel therapy was injected into the tissue surrounding the spinal cord of rats. laboratory 24 hours after making an incision in their spines.

The team decided to wait a day because humans who suffer severe spinal cord injuries from car accidents, shootings and other reasons also take a long time to receive treatment.

Four weeks later, the rats that received the treatment recovered their ability and walking almost as well as before the spinal cord injury, while those who did not receive it did not walk again.

The impact of the treatment at the cellular level was later evaluated by the team, who were faced with an impressive improvement in the spinal cord.

Extensions of neurons called axons have regenerated and scar tissue, which can function as a physical barrier that prevents regeneration, has been shown to be significantly reduced.

In addition, a protective layer of axons, which are important for the transmission of electrical impulses, regenerated, blood vessels formed to carry nutrients to the injured cells and more motor neurons survived.

Dancing molecules

A key finding of the team was that creating a certain mutation in the molecules intensified their collective movements and improved their effectiveness.

That is due to the fact that the receptors on neurons are naturally in constant motion, according to expl. it was Stupp. Thus, increasing the movement of therapeutic molecules with nanofibers helps to connect them more effectively with their moving targets.

The researchers even tested two versions of the treatment – ​​one with mutation and another without – and found that mice that received the modified version regained more mobility.

The gel developed by the scientists is the first of its kind, and may be the first of a new generation of known medicines. as “supramolecular drugs”, because the therapy consists of the union of several molecules instead of a single one, indicated Stupp.

According to the team of scientists, the treatment is safe because the materials in question degrade of weeks and turn into nutrients for the cells.

Stupp said he hopes the studies can move quickly to humans, without the need for further testing in animals such as monkeys, because of the fact that the nervous system is very similar among the species of mammals, and “there is nothing to help patients with spinal cord injuries, which is a big problem”.

According to official statistics, about 300 1,000 people live with spinal cord injuries in the United States alone. Its life expectancy is shorter than that of people without this type of injury and it has not improved since the years 1980.

“The challenge will be how the FDA will review these therapies , because they are completely new”, commented Stupp.

Back to top button