March 18, 2004
A study has found that infusing an anti-scarring agent called decorin into the damaged spinal cords of rats can suppress molecules that block nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury. The results were published in the March 8, 2004, issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience.
Misaligned scar tissue that forms at the site of spinal cord injuries can physically block nerve regeneration and contains molecules called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans that inhibit the growth of nerve fibers. Decorin inhibits the action of these inflammatory molecules, called transforming growth factors.
The researchers infused decorin into the injury site in rates with a mini-pump, which used tiny silica cannulas so small they did not contribute to the formation of scar tissue. Using a laser scanning microscope and protein chemistry to analyze tissue samples, the researchers were able to show that the infusion reduced inflammation, scar formation, and the levels of some proteoglycans by 80-95%, allowing new nerve fibers to grow across spinal cord injuries in only four days.
“We have found a promising new approach to control inflammation and scar formation, which will be an important part of future strategies to encourage axon regeneration and recovery after spinal cord injury,” said lead author Dr. Stephen Davies, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurosciences at the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX, USA).
The decorin used in the study was a genetically engineered form of human
decorin developed by The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, Integra
LifeSciences, The Burnham Institute, and GTC Biotherapeutics, Inc.
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