Researchers from the King’s College London worked on rats with spinal cord injuries, showing relearned hand movements after issuing gene therapy.
People who suffer from spinal cord injury are unable to engage in normal everyday functions, such as writing or holding objects. If they can regain their hand functions, this can greatly improve their quality of life.
The researchers used a gene therapy that could regenerate damaged spinal cord tissue that could be turned on or off using a common antibiotic.
With one injection, the gene can be turned off when it is no longer needed.
What happens after a spinal injury is that dense scar tissue forms, preventing nerve cells from creating new connections. What happens is that the therapy causes cells to produce the enzyme chondroitinase that breaks down the scar issue, allowing the networks to regenerate.
This is the first time a gene therapy with a stealth on or off switch worked in animal trials. The researchers are currently working in shutting down the gene completely, as it was found that a small amount of the gene remained active even after it was switched off.
As the trials continue and if they would be successful in the long run, this could spell the difference for those with spinal cord injuries.