Scientists at .NeuroRestore, Switzerland, report in the 22 September 2023 issue of Science  that they have developed a gene therapy that was proven in mice to stimulate nerve regrowth across spinal cord injuries and guide nerves to reconnect to their natural targets to restore mobility.
When the spinal cords of mice and humans are partially damaged, the initial paralysis is followed by the extensive, spontaneous recovery of motor function. However, after a complete spinal cord injury, this natural repair of the spinal cord doesn’t occur and there is no recovery. Meaningful recovery after severe injuries requires strategies that promote the regeneration of nerve fibres, but the requisite conditions for these strategies to successfully restore motor function have remained elusive.
“Five years ago, we demonstrated that nerve fibres can be regenerated across anatomically complete spinal cord injuries,” says Mark Anderson, a senior author of the study. “But we also realized this wasn’t enough to restore motor function, as the new fibres failed to connect to the right places on the other side of the lesion.” Anderson is the director of Central Nervous System Regeneration at .NeuroRestore and a scientist at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering.
Working in tandem with peers at UCLA and Harvard Medical School, the scientists used state-of-the-art equipment at EPFL’s Campus Biotech facilities in Geneva to run in-depth analyses and identity which type of neuron is involved in natural spinal-cord repair after partial spinal cord injury. “Our observations using single-cell nuclear RNA sequencing not only exposed the specific axons that must regenerate, but also revealed that these axons must reconnect to their natural targets to restore motor function,” says Jordan Squair, the study’s first author.