Spinal cord injury treatment by inhibiting scar molecules


    Spinal cord injury is a difficult neurological condition to treat, marred by the expansive growth of a glial scar. One class of inhibitory molecules found in the glial scar is chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) which impact on the ability of damaged spinal tract axons to regenerate and renew their connections. A new study from the Jerry Silver lab just came out in Nature looking at the effects of a new synthetic peptide in the treatment of the disorder. The attraction of damaged axons towards CSPGs lie in a few receptors on the growth cone surface, namely Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase sigma (PTP sigma) and leukocyte common antigen-related (LAR) phosphatase. The Silver lab designed a peptide which mimmics the PTP sigma binding site and applied it to neuronal cultures as well as damaged spinal cords of adult rats. They found striking improvements in axon growth over CSPGs in culture as well as functional improvements in bowel recovery and locomotion in animals after treatment. Such peptides have been the focus of much interest in the regeneration field because of the ease with which they can be potentially applied to the clinic. The new paper has been hailed as another breakthrough from the Silver lab to such an extent that NPR radio featured an entire story about it on their health news section. The Silver lab have an established reputation as they were one of the first groups to characterize CSPGs as inhibitors of nerve regeneration.


    The paper was published on December 3rd, this week: