Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Exciting new research from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen shows promise for spinal injuries. Drs. Wenlong Huang, Derryck Shewan and Alba Guijarro-Belmar published the study in The Journal of Neuroscience.
The study found that the activation of molecule Epac2 (exchange protein activated by cyclic-AMP) promoted regeneration of nerves and reduced the inhibitory nature of the injury area, thus encouraging further recovery.
The researchers initially conducted an experiment with severed rat nerve cells in a cell culture dish to mimic a spinal cord injury. To see if Epac2 was activated, the team utilized a hydrogel containing S-220 that normally does activate the Epac2. The hydrogel was formulated to time release and carry the treatment molecule to a specific area. Additionally, the hydrogel physically supported the damaged nerves.
The researchers found that that the Epac2 was activated by the hydrogel. They then injected the solution into rats with spinal cord injuries. Following the injections, the rats showed an increase in nerve growth across the spinal legions. Additionally, their ability to walk increased significantly.
Nerve regrowth is one of the largest hurdles in spinal cord injuries. Epac2 molecules are critical for nerve development during the embryonic stage which is what led researchers on this particular path of study.
Guijarro-Belmar was shocked with the results stating, “During our investigation we found something else that has never been reported before. We thought that the Epac2-activating drug would ‘turbo-charge’ the injured nerve cells, helping them to repair, but we also found that it can profoundly reduce the inhibitory nature of the environment around the injury site, so it also influences recovery in that way. The injured spinal nerves not only regenerated more robustly, they sensed the surrounding environment was not as inhibitory anymore, so the damaged nerves could more successfully regrow and cross the injury site.”
In another study published in the PNAS researchers from the University Of Michigan engineered a nanopartical solution to prevent formation of spinal scars. In addition to preventing spinal scarring, the solution boosted the immune system response to promote healing. Based on the results of both studies, it could be possible to combine a nanopartical solution with the hydrogel therapy to potentially prevent paralysis.