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Spinal cord bridge bypasses injury to restore mobility

their ends.

Silver said this method resulted in approximately 20 percent of the nerve fibers leaving the bridge and reconnecting with the spinal cord. It brought about markedly improved mobility for the seven rats given the chondroitinase treatment.

A control group of five rats underwent the same procedure. Instead of the chondroitinase, they were given a saline solution. None showed any nerve growth out of the bridge or improvement in their limbs.

To test whether something other than regeneration was at work in restoring movement, the neural bridges were severed and the rats lost all movement gained from the combination of treatments. This provides the most conclusive evidence to date that severed nerve fibers in the spinal cord can, in fact, regenerate for long distances and establish proper functional connections.

Silver said if the method is perfected and successful with primates, it could go to human trials within a relatively short time.

His next step is a neural bridge that would help quadriplegics, who are unable to breathe without assistance, move their diaphragms on their own. In future animal studies he plans to undertake nerve grafts from the leg to bridge the area of the spinal cord that controls breathing.

"While this was one small step for a rat, it was one giant leap for man," said Silver.


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Source:Case Western Reserve University


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