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Rat makes a partial recovery following a spinal cord lesion

Scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research have developed an experimental therapy which enables rats with a spinal cord lesion to partially recover from their paralysis. Up until now not even the slightest degree of recovery was possible. PhD student Bas Blits was part of this team.

The method uses a combination of transplantation and gene therapy. For the transplantation, the researchers implanted nerve cells cultured in vitro. The cells originated from the nerves between the ribs where they could be missed. Following the transplantation gene therapy has to further stimulate the growth and recovery of the damaged nerve cells. This is done by means of growth stimulating molecules. These neurotrophic factors are naturally present during, for example, the recovery of nerves following a deep cut in the finger. Normally they are not present in large enough quantities in the spinal cord. Over the next few years the researchers will try to improve their therapy. PhD student Bas Blits will continue his research (with sponsorship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) at the University of Miami, where he will also attempt to implant stem cells instead of the used nerve cells from the fore rib.

The researchers attempted to repair three sorts of spinal cord damage in rats. The first, the dorsal, partial hemisection is comparable to a knife stab in the back in humans. The two most important neural tracts for voluntary movement are severed. In both humans and rats the result is a paralysed lower body. In rats the result is partially paralysed rear legs. After therapy the rat's walking improved. It appeared that one of the two neural tracts slowly recovered.

The second spinal cord lesion examined by the researchers was the complete transection at the height of the eighth vertebra. The spinal cord is completely severed, comparable in humans to a spinal cord lesion after a violent knife stab in the rib area. Also, this type res
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Contact: Michel Philippens
philippens@nwo.nl
31-70-344 0784
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
20-Feb-2002


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