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Researchers Find Genes to Repair Damages of Spinal Cord

Researchers Find Genes to Repair Damages of Spinal Cord

Thursday, 18 January, 2018 - 06:15
The river and sea lamprey have rows of bony teeth and a tongue which is used to bore into other fish. Getty

In a new scientific discovery, US researchers said genes that can repair damages of spinal cord in fishes, may also repair them in humans.

The researchers from Northwell Health's Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, led by Professor Ona Bloom, associate professor at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), published their study in the Scientific Reports magazine.

Scientists said that his discovery is significant because it shows the possibility that the same or similar genes may be used to improve spinal cord repair in other animals and perhaps eventually lead to therapeutic developments for humans.

Dr. Bloom said: “Scientists have known for many years that the lamprey achieves spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, but we have not known the molecular recipe that accompanies and supports this remarkable operation,”

“In this study, we have determined all the genes that change during the course of recovery in the lamprey. Now that we have that information, we can use it to test if specific pathways are actually essential to the process,” she added.

Lampreys are jawless, eel-like fish that, about 550 million years ago, shared a common ancestor with humans. The observation that a lamprey can fully recover from a severed spinal cord without medication or other treatment is what spurred this study. They can go from paralysis to full swimming behaviors in 10 to 12 weeks.

The researchers analyzed the lampreys' healing process to determine which genes and signaling pathways were activated when the damage occurs. They found the expression of many genes in the spinal cord change over time with recovery and other genes also change in the brain.

They also saw that many of the genes associated with the response to spinal cord injury also play a role in tissue development and in regeneration in several other animals, which will allow using it to heal damages in the spinal cord.

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