Global SCI research news

Cure related research news from around the world

The views expressed and items reported on below do not necessarily reflect the views of the SpinalCure Australia.

Queensland researchers are launching a world-first clinical trial aimed at improving recovery from spinal cord injuries.

In the study, led by The University of Queensland and The Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, a new anti-inflammatory drug will be given to participants within hours of spinal trauma in an effort to minimise tissue damage.

Dr Marc Ruitenberg from the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences said when the spinal cord is injured, it becomes inflamed and this causes a lot of additional damage.

Dr Mark Ruitenberg
Dr Mark Ruitenberg PhD

“Up until now, doctors had no real treatment options to deal with this problem,” Dr Ruitenberg said.

“What we discovered in our animal studies is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy can reduce this harmful inflammation and, excitingly, significantly improve the recovery from serious spinal cord injuries.”

Spinal surgeon Dr Kate Campbell, who is heading up the trial with Dr Ruitenberg, said one of the great benefits of IVIg is that it is quite safe and already used in the hospital for other conditions.

“As a result, we have been able to quickly progress this treatment from the lab to the clinic,” she said.

The trial will run for three years and will aim to recruit 20 participants through the PA Hospital, which is Queensland’s primary centre for spinal injury care.

Queensland Health estimates that 90 people sustain spinal cord injuries in the state each year.

“Sadly, the summer holidays can be a busy time for spinal wards,” Dr Campbell said.

“It’s a time when people are travelling, heading to the beach and spending time outdoors, and unfortunately it’s a time when accidents occur.

“We hope this research will help the recovery of those who suffer these serious injuries.

“It can happen to anyone and we therefore urge people to be careful.”

Dr Ruitenberg’s pre-clinical work received funding support from the Wings for Life Foundation and SpinalCure Australia, while CSL Behring has provided IVIg and funding for the clinical trial.

Dr Andrea Douglas, Vice President R&D Strategy and External Affairs at CSL, said the use of intravenous immunoglobulin in this setting is a novel application for one of CSL’s flagship therapies.

“Spinal injuries are devastating, and with few options available to effectively treat the inflammation that occurs, we are very pleased that Dr Ruitenberg’s team are getting closer to finding a solution.”

Media: Dr Marc Ruitenberg, [email protected], 07 3346 7602; Kim Lyell, [email protected], 07 33465214, 0427 530647.

Reprogramming embryonic stem cells to expand their potential cell fates

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to reprogram mouse embryonic stem cells so that they exhibit developmental characteristics resembling those of fertilized eggs, or zygotes. For now, the new stem cell lines UC Berkeley researchers have created will help scientists understand the first molecular decisions made in the early embryo. Ultimately, however, these insights could broaden the repertoire of tissues that can be generated from stem cells, with significant implications for regenerative medicine and stem cell-based therapy.

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Prof Edgerton’s team give quadriplegic increased arm & hand movement 5 yrs post injury

In June, Brian Gomez, who broke his neck in a dirt bike accident five years ago, was implanted with a 32-electrode stimulator below the site of his spinal cord injury, near the C-5 vertebrae.

“The spinal cord contains alternate pathways that it can use to bypass the injury and get messages from the brain to the limbs,” said Dr. Daniel Lu, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the school’s Neuroplasticity and Repair Laboratory. “Electrical stimulation trains the spinal cord to find and use these pathways.”

“We’d used electrical stimulation to recover paraplegic patients’ abilities to stand and move their legs on their own following injury to the lower spine,” said Prof Edgerton, a distinguished professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College. “There was considerable skepticism in the field that we could use a similar approach to regain hand function in quadriplegic patients with injury to the upper spine. Brian’s strong response to the implant has been very exciting.”

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Research finds promising therapeutic target for recovery of ejaculation in men after spinal cord injury

In humans, the crucial role of the spinal cord in controlling ejaculation is based within a group of neurons located in the L3-L5 segments. In patients with a spinal cord lesion, the intactness of the L3-L5 segments was a determining factor for inducing ejaculation. Therefore, targeting this region might be a promising strategy for the recovery of ejaculation after spinal cord injury.

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Spinal injuries impact gut microbiome

Using mice models of spinal cord injury, scientists from Ohio USA determined whether gut bacteria dysbiosis – or, functional interruption – affects the recovery of neurological function in patients after a traumatic spinal cord injury. The researchers studied changes in the mice’s microbiomes after their injuries for a month to predict the range of their locomotor impairment.

“The trillions of microbes that exist in the gastrointestinal tract have emerged as pivotal regulators of human development and physiology,” said principal investigator Phillip Popovich in a press release. “Spinal cord injuries cause dramatic shifts in the types of bacteria normally found in the gut, resulting in dysbiosis, which can cause or contribute to neurologic disease.”

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Graphene nanoribbons to guide neuron growth in the injured spinal cord

James Tour and his group at Rice University, Texas, have developed a product that combines graphene nanoribbons with a biocompatible polymer gel. Dubbed Texas-PEG the product acts as a scaffold bridging the spinal cord lesion and encourages neuron growth across the gap.

“Neurons grow nicely on graphene because it’s a conductive surface and it stimulates neuronal growth,” Tour said.

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Pleiotrophin treatment stimulates neuron growth in the adult CNS

Chondroitin sulfate (CS) glycosaminoglycans inhibit regeneration in the adult central nervous system (CNS). Finnish researchers have reported that HB-GAM (heparin-binding growth-associated molecule; also known as pleiotrophin), reverses the role of the CS chains, switching it from inhibiting growth to  activating the neurite growth of CNS neurons. HB-GAM is a CS-binding protein expressed at high levels in the developing CNS,

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