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Gene therapy restores hand function in rats with spinal cord injury
Researchers gave the gene therapy to rats with spinal cord injuries that resembled the type humans develop after traumatic impacts.
Rats accurately able to grasp sugar pellets following treatment 

Researchers from King’s College London have used a new kind of gene therapy to restore hand function in rats with spinal cord injuries.

The study tested a kind of gene therapy that could be switched on and off using a common antibiotic. Professor Elizabeth Bradbury from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) said the discovery means that scientists can now precisely control how long a therapy is delivered using a gene ‘switch’.

“This means we can hone in on the optimal amount of time needed for recovery,” she said. “Gene therapy provides a way of treating large areas of the spinal cord with only one injection, and with the switch, we can now turn the gene off when it is no longer needed.”

Following a traumatic injury to the spine, dense scar tissue forms, preventing new connections being made between nerve cells. The gene therapy causes cells to produce an enzyme called chondroitinase which can break down this scar tissue and allow networks of nerve cells to regenerate.

In the study, researchers gave the gene therapy to rats with spinal cord injuries that resembled the type humans develop after traumatic impacts, such as falls or car crashes.

They found that when the gene therapy was switched on for two months, the rats were able to accurately reach and grasp sugar pellets. They also found a dramatic increase in activity in the spinal cord of the rats, suggesting that new connections had been made in the networks of nerve cells.

To overcome the problem of the immune system recognising and removing the switch mechanism, the researchers added a ‘stealth gene' to hide the switch from the immune system.

"The use of a stealth gene switch provides an important safeguard and is an encouraging step toward an effective gene therapy for spinal cord injury," said
Professor Joost Verhaagen from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience." This is the first time a gene therapy with a stealth on/off switch has been shown to work in animals."

Further research is now underway to prepare the gene therapy for trials in larger species.

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Report: A third of Welsh birds are in decline

News Story 1
 A report by RSPB Cymru and partnering ornithology organisations has revealed that a third of bird species in Wales are in significant decline.

90 per cent of Wales is farmed and there is now pressure to implement new land management policies that will aid in nature restoration.

Patrick Lindley, Maritime Ornithologist for Natural Resources Wales, commented: “The problems that confront UK birds, whether they are breeding or non-breeding, are pressure and threats that confront entire ecosystems.

“Birds are a great indicator to the health of our environment. The continued population declines of birds of farmed, woodland and upland habitats suggest there are large geographic themes that are having a detrimental impact.”  

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British sheep meat to be exported to India in new agreement

The UK government has secured a new export deal of sheep meat to India.

In 2017, UK sheep meat exports were worth £386 million. This new agreement is predicted to increase this value by £6 million over the next five years.

With a range of meat cuts due to be exported, the deal is seen by international trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, as “another vote of confidence in our world-leading food and drink”.