Laborartory studies in mice have shown that a drug called
intracellular sigma peptide (ISP) has promising results in restoring functions
like the ability to walk, to balance and urinate, lost due to paralyzing injury
to the spinal cord.
Scientists are hoping that with further studies ISP could be used for therapy in humans. Jerry Silver, a professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio said, "We're very excited at the possibility that millions of people could, one day, regain movements lost during spinal cord injuries."
The research looked at ways of overcoming scarring when nerve fibers in the spinal cord are damaged and signals from the brain no longer reach muscles below the injury site. Nerve fibers try to cross the injury site and reconnect with other fibers, but become trapped at the scar site by sticky proteins called proteoglycans. ISP is designed to act on the receptor on the surface of the nerve cells which turns off a response to the proteoglycans that causes the blockage. ISP induced 'sprouting' of these fibers below the injury site.
The study is published in the journal Nature.