The discovery of nerve cells in spinal cord injury patients offers promise

These nerve cells, or neurons called Vsx2, are found in the brainstem and spinal cord and play a key role in the recovery of motor function after spinal cord injury.

Researchers from Switzerland describe their findings as a “clinical breakthrough”. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Study author Jordan Squire believes that identifying nerve cells could lead to more targeted treatments for stroke patients.

– We can now aim to manipulate these neurons to regenerate the spinal cord, he says.

– The hope it brings to spinal cord injury patients is incrediblesays Mark Ruitenberg, a neurologist and spinal cord injury expert at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

causing paralysis

Severe spinal cord injuries can disrupt connections between the brain and the network of nerve cells in the lower spine that control walking.

In 2018, neuroscientist Grégoire Courtin of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and his colleagues showed that by delivering electrical pulses to the spinal cord — a technique known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES) — along with intense exercise, people related. Re-injury of the spinal cord.

All three participants in the trial were able to take steps by themselves or with a walker or crutches from severe or complete motor paralysis and reduced sensation in the legs. Two other experiments in the same year showed similar results.

Experimental therapy

Court’s team has now taken the research further. As part of the clinical trial, the researchers recruited nine people with severe or complete paralysis caused by spinal cord injury.

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Patients received EES treatment – ​​an experimental therapy that helps regain lost movement and control.

EES treatment involves implanting a small device stimulator in the epidural space above the spinal cord.

The researchers saw that all patients regained or improved their ability to walk briskly during treatment and showed improvement in mobility after five months of treatment and rehabilitation.

Experiment in mice

The authors conducted a series of experiments in mice to find neurons associated with standing and walking after a stroke.

They found that Vsx2 neurons — a subset of neurons called V2a — were associated with restored walking after stroke.

Key Wui Huang and Ayman Azim, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, who were not involved in the study, write in Nature’s News & Views that the findings are “consistent with the idea that certain types of spinal neurons are lost. Given proper stimulation and rehabilitation, input from the brain can ‘rekindle’ or restore movement after injury.” .

Study author Jocelyn Bloch, a neurosurgeon at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), says the new study is valuable.

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