Forepaw function in rats with severe spinal cord injury can be substantially improved through a combination of specialized exercises and treatment with specific proteins, reports a study online in this week's Nature Neuroscience.
Presently, there is no treatment available to help quadriplegic patients regain function of their limbs after severe spinal cord injury. In animals, injection of an enzyme called chondroitinase into the spinal cord induces substantial growth of nerve fibers; however this undirected growth does not greatly improve limb function in the paralyzed animals.
James Fawcett and colleagues report that a course of therapy that combines training of fine forepaw function with chondroitinase treatment results in forepaw dexterity about twice that of rats who practiced without having received the chondroitinase injections.
Although possible side effects of chondroitinase injections into the spinal cord require much further study before such injections may be applied to human patients, these results suggest a possible new therapy for severe spinal cord injury.