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Scientists Coax Nerve Fibers To Regrow 76

Malthooslie writes to tell us ScienceDaily is reporting that scientists have managed to regrow nerve fibers after a spinal injury. Using an enzyme called sialidase, isolated from bacteria, researchers were able to stimulate nerve fiber growth in rats. From the article: "While surgeons can sometimes reattach the yanked nerves to the spinal cord, this treatment is not as effective as physicians or patients would like. This is in part because nerves in the brain and spinal cord, unlike those in the rest of the body, fail to grow new nerve fibers. Nerves in the brain and spinal cord are surrounded by signals from other cells in the injured area that stop them from growing."
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Scientists Coax Nerve Fibers To Regrow

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  • Help my memory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:29PM (#15741195) Homepage Journal
    Is this the 20th time I've read about this "new" development in the past year, or is this really something different than all the other times rats were made to walk again after a spinal cord break?
  • Headline (Score:5, Funny)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:30PM (#15741201) Homepage Journal
    And to think, all this time the secret was lying right behind the television.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:36PM (#15741214)
    They coaxed, did they? Persuaded, gradually and by flattery, to do something?... ooooooh.. you are such a nice nerve... you put other nerves to shame.... Oh comon just regrow a bit!! Just a tiny bit!! You look so great when you regrow....

    Honestly the nerve... flattery gets you nowhere.
    • Re:They coaxed? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PieSquared ( 867490 ) <isosceles2006@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:49PM (#15741245)
      1 To persuade or try to persuade by pleading or flattery; cajole. 2 To obtain by persistent persuasion: coaxed the secret out of the child. 3 Obsolete. To caress; fondle. 4 To move to or adjust toward a desired end: "A far more promising approach to treating advanced melanoma is to coax the immune system to recognize melanoma cells as deadly" (Natalie Angier). See #4. Also please learn all the meanings of a word before trying to make fun of someone for improper usage
      • Hey, if the doctor's cute, she can coax my spine any time she likes!

      • 7 entries found for humor.
        humor ( P ) Pronunciation Key (hymr)
        n.
        The quality that makes something laughable or amusing; funniness: could not see the humor of the situation.
        That which is intended to induce laughter or amusement: a writer skilled at crafting humor.
        The ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd. See Synonyms at wit1.
        One of the four fluids of the body, blood, phlegm, choler, and black bile, whose relative proportions were thought in ancient and m
      • n : the trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous; "she didn't appreciate my humor"; "you can't survive in the army without a sense of humor" [syn: humor, humour, sense of humor]
      • Uh, I may be mistaken... but I believe GP was making a joke. That is to say:

        1a : something said or done to provoke laughter; especially : a brief oral narrative with a climactic humorous twist b (1) : the humorous or ridiculous element in something (2) : an instance of jesting : KIDDING <can't take a joke> c : PRACTICAL JOKE d : LAUGHINGSTOCK 2 : something not to be taken seriously : a trifling matter <consider his skiing a joke -- Harold Callender> -- often used in negative constructions

      • That gives a completely new meaning to coaxial cable....

        "... please cable, just grow a little bit more, you've almost made it to the router, just
        stretch out those coils a little bit more, that's it, a few more inches, I know you can do it. I don't want to have to hang you from the roof and stretch you out..."
      • This is my favorite thing about the English language... some other languages can't be coaxed into meaning many completely different things by context... they are what they are and you can count on a usage being unique and self-descriptive... luckily we have a system that allows for creative usage which in turn fosters a creative mindset which is what keeps us at the top of the economical food-chain.... see there, see how I did that? I mixed terms up to create a metaphor of sorts, I mean all you have to do i
  • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * <justin DOT wick AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:42PM (#15741227)
    I, for one, welcome our new neural-regnerating rodent overlords...
  • by HTMLSpinnr ( 531389 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:47PM (#15741236) Homepage
    I wonder if this could at all help existing nerves regenerate after damage caused by diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. While MS symptoms are a result of the mylin sheath being attacked rather than nerves being detatched, the end result is ultimately the same as the disease progresses - partial or total loss of nerve function in one or more regions of the body. If nerves can be encouraged to grow, it'd be great if they could be encouraged to repair as well.
    • by Tim ( 686 ) <timr.alumni@washington@edu> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:18AM (#15741308) Homepage
      Unlikely. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder, and even if new nerves could be generated, they would be just as susceptible to attack by the host immune system.
      • by JMemmert ( 564338 ) * <memmert.jpmdesign@net> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @01:28AM (#15741416) Homepage Journal
        Unlikely. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder, and even if new nerves could be generated, they would be just as susceptible to attack by the host immune system.
        I agree. It would not have a lasting effect. But repairing existing damage, even if not a permanent effect, would greatly reduce the damage done by the flare-ups.
        For patients of both the relapsing-remitting and progressive form of MS, a treatment that would reduce the retained damage would be very helpful.
        Patients who can, depending on the degree of the MS, suffer greatly in terms of reduced motor functions and control, for instance, would welcome a treatment that restores their motor skills.
        However, causing the growth of nerves where there were none is, to me, significantly different from repairing existing nerves and the mechanisms to do that seem to be quite different.
        The Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article on this describes the damage repair mechanism as follows:
        The oligodendrocytes that originally formed a myelin sheath cannot completely rebuild a destroyed myelin sheath. However, the brain can recruit stem cells, which migrate from other unknown regions of the brain, differentiate into mature oligodendrocytes, and rebuild the myelin sheath.
        This indicates a completely different mechanism as in this research and I find it doubtful that there would be synergy effects. But I am not a doctor. Unfortunately. :-(
    • As someone whose significant other (my wife) was diagnosed about three weeks ago, I would hope that the science behind the research is what leads to the "right" answer being developed in a new direction.

      The thing is, medically, I don't think that the sudden onset of "nerve ending" (re)growth taking place in the brain is the answer. What we want is to discover a chemical means of telling the body to stop attacking the myelin sheaths between the nerves as if they were a virus. Meaning that this research has

      • I feel your pain - my wife has been diagnosed for nearly 5 years, and has been progressively getting worse, hence my initial post. I think what my hope is that once a treatment/cure is successfuly developed (Tysabri - sp?), then an alternate treatment such as what the article referenced, or treatments that other posters suggested (stem cells) could be used to repair some of the damage.

        Until then, I continue to wear my red wristband, labeled "Hope", with the http://nationalmssociety.org/ [nationalmssociety.org] URL.
    • I was thinking similarily. However, I thought of Parkinson's Disease and it's sister disease (I can't remember the name... oh shit!). These both are degenerative nervous diseases. They may not be cured, but rendered a nusience, and nothing more. These particular diseases torment the loved ones of these people as they watch him or her become more and more lost. Who was there is there no more. Putting a stop to the advancement would save a lot of heart ache.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:50PM (#15741249) Homepage Journal
    Scientists from the Cowboy Neal Temporal Institute released a study in which stories posted to Slashdot transported themselves almost a month into the future [slashdot.org]. This research is preliminary, but Dr. Neal hopes that someday soon, we will be able to read about the moon landing, Columbus's voyages, and even the birth of the Universe as they happened.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not the same. That was stem cells to grow new nerve cells, this is an enzyme to cause nerve cells to grow new connections.

      Keep your paralyzed rats straight here ;)
  • Man with Two Brains (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:57AM (#15741366) Homepage Journal
    You know, I remember when that summary would have said "nerves, unlike other cells, don't regrow when damaged". Now it's just brain/spinal nerves, not growing fibers, which an enzyme can fix.

    How long before I can backup my mind in a spare brain, and go back to partying like when I was a kid? When nerves didn't regenerate, and I was too dumb to care?
    • Nerves outside the spinal cord/brain have always had the capacity to regrow. I was run over 10 days ago, and suffered severe bruising down my left wrist; over the last week the bruise has been incredibly itchy at times. I've never had itchy bruises before, so I looked it up; apparently it's the regrowth of the nerves that were smashed up. I mentioned this to a colleague of mine who studied some bio at uni, and he agreed with it and cited a better example - he'd had a bad cut to the outside edge of his hand,
      • Well those nerves have always had the capacity to heal. We're only now working with adding capacities by meddling with inhibition mechanisms. But the conventional wisdom used to be that nerves don't regenerate. Even through my premed physio classes in the 1980s they taught us that principle. Now the CW is a lot less humbug.

        I watch medicine's continuing developments in letting the body heal itself while playing a champion support role. Ben Franklin said "god does the healing, the doctor collects the reward".
  • Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noodles ( 39504 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @01:05AM (#15741383)
    Ever since 1983 when my spinal cord was injured, I've heard over and over that a "cure" is only 5 years away. I'll belive it when I see it.
    • Reminds me of SPAM; like all the penis enlargement pills, and what not.

      The problem is that penis enlargement pills will never work, but the money hunt is similar.

      Spinal cord treatment is very risky research on humans.
      Rats have better regenerative abilites, stronger immunesystem and shorter lifespans; so doing clinic tests on human almost always fails completely.
      I wish that they did some proper clinical tests on humans instead trying to get more funds by publishing things like this, time and time again.

      Simil
  • Why not something artificial to replace the lost nerves ?

    Like wire or something that conducts electricity.
    • Nerves don't transmit electricity per say, the transmission happens through a progression of chemicals being dumped from an axon and a in flux of ions from outside coming in which cause a similar reaction down the line at another membrane gate on the axon. Its an elctrochemical reaction that carries the signal in a axon.

      (My biology is a little rusty, so maybe someone can better explain it.)
    • by FirienFirien ( 857374 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @05:05AM (#15741877) Homepage
      As vix86 points out, it's not the electrical signals that matter. The human nervous system is not based on electricity, but on ions; the application of electricity to the skin will cause those ions to move, since they're charged particles, but the nervous system itself is purely chemical. For one thing, it doesn't have any closed circuits - the nerve system is entirely radiative, pointing outwards but with no equivalents of wires that come back. What matters here is the synapses [wikipedia.org]. When these are ripped out of place by medical trauma, it's damn hard to fit them back together again - in the rest of the body, it works, but in the spinal cord there's other cells present that effectively inhibit this healing.
      • Eh, bah. Link broken, my bad. Try this one instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synapse [wikipedia.org].
      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @05:16AM (#15741909)
        The human nervous system is not based on electricity, but on ions; the application of electricity to the skin will cause those ions to move, since they're charged particles, but the nervous system itself is purely chemical.

        Actually, it's electro-chemical. Signal transmission along the axon works by having a depolarized zone travelling down the axon. The depolarization happens electrically, this is why having a myelin sheath around the axon will speed up signal transmission (the depolarization can "skip" the parts of the axon covered by the myelin sheath).

        Signal transmission between two nerve cells is a chemical process that happens in the synaptic cleft, involving neurotransmitters and enzymes to break them down.

        What matters here is the synapses. When these are ripped out of place by medical trauma, it's damn hard to fit them back together again - in the rest of the body, it works, but in the spinal cord there's other cells present that effectively inhibit this healing.

        Actually, no, the synapses are not the biggest problem. They're simply a connection between two cells that can be reformed fairly easily (nerve cells have a natural tendency to try to establish meaningful connections with other nerve cells). The big problem is having nerve fibers that are cut - the usual healing process of the body consists of disposing of damaged cells and replacing them with newly formed cells. This obviously doesn't work with neurons as they usually cannot be re-grown. Therefore, if a neuron is damaged, it has to be _repaired_, not _replaced_, and this is the hard part.

        • Signal transmission between two nerve cells is a chemical process that happens in the synaptic cleft, involving neurotransmitters and enzymes to break them down.



          Addition - there are also electric synapses that transmit the signal electrically. However, they lack all the ways to influence/modulate signal transmission in the synaptic cleft, and therefore are rare compared to the chemical synapses.

        • There's a flow of ions; it's not conventional electricity, because there's no loop, nor does the signal travel back along the same axon later like a Leyden jar. Sure, you can label the flow of ions in one direction - a chemical gradient caused by the synapse reaction - as electricity, but to most people that's misleading and confusing.

          I appreciate the clarification on the dispose/replace, though.
          • There's a flow of ions; it's not conventional electricity, because there's no loop,

            Yes, there actually is a loop, albeit a tiny one - between the depolarized and the not-yet-but-soon-to-be depolarized part of the axon. The myelin sheath (with its gaps) increases the length of this loop and allows the signal to travel faster.

  • Any idea why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pembo13 ( 770295 )
    This is in part because nerves in the brain and spinal cord, unlike those in the rest of the body, fail to grow new nerve fibers. Nerves in the brain and spinal cord are surrounded by signals from other cells in the injured area that stop them from growing.
    Has any research been done to find out why the body didn't/hasn't adapted to work around the reasoning for said nerves not regrowing?
    • Has any research been done to find out why the body didn't/hasn't adapted to work around the reasoning for said nerves not regrowing?

      Simply because such a mechanism would not have provided any significant evolutionary advantage, because damage to the central nervous system usually resulted in death long before the body's repair mechanism can do their thing.

      Of course, the latter part is no longer true for humans today, but ~100 years are merely a blip on the timescale of evolution.

    • There are a number of probable factors.

      - First of all, the brain cells are "terminally differentiated". This means that once their growth is complete, they can't reproduce anymore (though they're free to adapt to the environment);
      - Then, when there is injury in the central nervous system, the specialized immune system of the brain (microglia) causes an inflammation that further damages the area and prevents regrowth;
      - Third, neurons are *extremely* susceptible to stress: for the sake of preserving their mis
  • by __aazdqt2542 ( 936714 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @04:58AM (#15741862)
    When lesioning mice experimentally, it was found that only early in development could spinal cords regrow. The older the beast, the less function could be expected. Since chemical signals surround adult nerve fibers preventing their re-growth, change the chemical bath. This is such an obvious tack, that it is just downright criminal that it is not being followed up. Developmentally, nerve fibers grown into everything early in life, it is only later that the extra nerves die off. So how do you fix damaged CNS nerves? Find out what differences exist between fetal and 3 month old and infuse the area with the fetal bath. What are the most blatently obvious? Blood, hello! Fetal hemoglobin disappears in correlation to the neural die off, along with other choice proteins. Experiment: Does a fetal circulation enable CNS lesion healing? Provide a fetal-type circulation to an affected area, then see. Sure, fetal circulation to CNS lesions might involve some interesting, even controversial plumbing, but the idea is sound.
    • Great idea in theory, but very hard to put into practice. First of all, there are a lot of immunological compatability issues when transferring blood or serum from one organism to another. The human (and mouse) body has an amazing system to recognize foreign material and destroy it, and the bood wouldn't last very long. The second issue is cost. It would be very hard to get a large enough quantity of infant blood to "bathe" an injured area (short of pushing the limits of ethics, which our country seems
  • cells is outdated. I am not an expert, but more and more I hear of different results, e.g. here: http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s59648. htm [abc.net.au]
  • Maybe they're just happy to see you.
  • Can anyone recall what happened to a certain Dr. Connors for doing something like this? We're gonna have a whole bunch of Lizards [wikipedia.org] running around. If I recall, he kinda went nuts too.
  • WTF??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @09:00AM (#15742602)
    I read about them doing this 10 fucking years ago, only it was dogs. Inject the shit into some people already!!!!

    And yes, I am a little pissed off at how slow and screwed up the FDA and AMA are. Stevia is bad, but have some more ritalin children.
  • good work there, it'll be pretty helpful for the future(which is now). good to see that this didnt happen in india... although i think that one of the researchers was indian.

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