A group of Mexican Scientists developed a method that, for the first time, may help recovering certain functions after spinal cord damage.
A very strong back injury can cause several vertebrae fractures (including compression, flexion distraction, dislocation, and transverse fractures). In the worst scenario it can cause spinal cord damage, which can be permanent and produce full or partial paralysis, such as losing the ability of moving arms, legs or chest; as well as sensitivity.
To improve the quality of life of those suffering from this type of physical disability, therapies, devices and tools have been developed worldwide to improve patient´s communication and displacement.
However nothing has been developed to reverse the problem, until a group of Mexican scientists presented a development of extraordinary impact.
The innovation is a biocompatible semiconductor polymer, which is used as an implant in the damaged nerve tissue. Its proven effect in animal testing consists in stimulating the growth of new connections between neurons, helping to recover some of the functions lost.
The development of the material, which is already patented, involved scientists from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, the Mexican Social Security Institute and the Nuclear Research Institute.
Team leader Dr. Camilo Rios Castañeda, academic and researcher at the UAM, said in an interview that the polymer is a derivative of an organic compound called pyrrole, which is synthesized by the technique called plasma, and it is of a molecule capable of conducting electric currents.
“In the spinal cord an electrochemical connection is performed, which connects the brain’s neurons with those ordering the movement of muscles. By having an injury, the communication is interrupted. So that there is no movement or sensation; and the brain does not register the information in the hands and/or legs, in other words, the affected may end quadriplegic or paraplegic.”
Rios Castañeda specifies that they performed tests in rodents, in which the material (shaped as a pill) was placed in the area of the lesion. After two months, the scientists recorded indications of recovery, as the rodents showed signs of movement in limbs.
Then the scientist performed tests in rhesus macaques, in which the polymer was placed by injection, and the encouraging effects were seen in just three months. After evaluation by nuclear magnetic resonance it was found growth and reconnection of nerve tissue in the bone of the implanted monkeys.
The Mexican scientific project has nearly 15 years of development. The researchers continue with animal experimentation, and the next step is clinical trials in humans. So far, says Dr. Rios Castañeda, the biopolymer means a hope for paraplegics or quadriplegics, for whom there is no similar treatment in the world, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The research objective, he adds, is to offer humans the possibility of reconnecting the spinal cord, and along with rehabilitation, recovering a portion of the lost motor skills.
“A company is interested in investing in the development, to possibly produce it industrially in the future“, he said.
Source: La Jornada