Treating spinal cord injuries by genetically modifying cells that help us smell

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Researchers from the University of Bristol have just shared the promising results of a new treatment for spinal cord injuries that could help regenerate nerves and potentially improve patients’ quality of life.

The new therapy involves the transplantation of cells that have been modified to secrete a molecule that helps to remove scarring caused by spinal cord damage. This scarring can limit the regrowth of nerves, thus greatly hindering a patient’s potential for recovery. Previous studies have shown that the enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) is effective at promoting nerve regrowth when used as a part of drug therapies for spinal injuries.

Olfactory ensheathing cells have the ability to regenerate and repair themselves over the course of a person’s life in order to maintain the sense of smell. That ability makes these cells ideal for genetic modification when the goal is prolonging a molecule’s lifespan.

For their study, which has been published in PLOS ONE, the researchers injected mice with canine olfactory ensheathing cells that had been genetically modified to secrete ChABC. After transplantation, they observed the successful secretion of ChABC as well as the removal of some scarring. They also noted signs of successful nerve regeneration.

It is an important proof-of-concept for this revolutionary treatment method, but more testing is needed to determine effectiveness.

Read full, original post: Our Sense of Smell Provides a New Way to Battle Spinal Cord Injuries

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