Can Research into Fish aid Spinal Cord Injury Treatment?
A new study published in ‘Nature Communications’ journal has led to the discovery of important insights into how zebrafish repair broken nerve connections. These findings could hold clues for new therapies and treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.
Researchers at Edinburgh University’s Neuroregeneration department have pinpointed molecules in zebrafish that prompt damaged nerve fibres to regenerate. Currently, this process in humans is impossible, meaning that spinal cord injury (SCI) and its associated paralysis is a permanent and irreversible injury.
However, these new findings could start to pave the way for doctors to restore vital connections between the brain and muscles to ultimately restore lost mobility.
Zebrafish and Spinal Cord Injury
For the present humans are incapable of central nerve regeneration and so when a spinal cord injury occurs the end result is often lifelong paralysis either in full or in part. Zebrafish on the other hand can regain full movement within just four weeks of injury. This almost miraculous recovery can be attributed to a group of “wound-healing“ cells called fibroblasts which move to the site of damage and begin to repair.
This repair is achieved by the fibroblasts producing a “chemical signal called wnt“ which in turns allows the molecule collagen 12 to be produced. Crucially, collagen 12 has the ability to alter, modify and mend the “support matrix“ surrounding nervous system fibres.
This ability allows any damaged nerve fibres to regrow and reconnect to restore lost sensations and movements.
What this means for Spinal Cord Injury research in human cases
Dr Thomas Becker, who was closely involved in the groundbreaking study has commented on his work saying that: "In people and other mammals, the matrix in the injury site blocks nerves from growing back after an injury. We have now pinpointed the signals that remove this roadblock in zebrafish, so that nerve cells can repair connections that are lost after damage to the spinal cord."
"We next plan to check whether triggering these signals in other animals can help them to repair nerve connections damaged by spinal cord injuries."
If the next stage of the research is successful, it could prove a pivotal moment in SCI research; one that may begin to illuminate the path to removing the permanence of the debilitating effects of spinal cord injuries. Whilst in its infancy, the research demonstrates what might be achievable in the longer term as technology and techniques develop.
Spinal Cord Injury Support
For the present SCI persons are reliant on rehabilitation and technology to assist with their recovery and life after SCI. Aspire Law can advise you on any claim you might have and discuss with you the types of treatment available and any appropriate assistive technology that might be available under your claim.
Unlike most spinal cord injury solicitors, Aspire Law is a unique joint venture between Moore Barlow and Aspire Charity. This means that we are able to not only guide you through the legal complexities following a SCI, but we too are on hand to offer effective relief, support and advice in the turbulent periods following such an injury.
We assemble a partner-led team for every spinal cord injury claim we handle. Each team deal only with a small number of cases at any one time, enabling them to provide a proactive and personal service, thereby achieving the best possible outcome in the shortest possible time.