- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a finding that offers hope to the paralyzed and
others with nerve injuries, a new technique that uses a sticky chemical
and a calcium bath may help severed nerve endings grow back together, scientists
said on Thursday.
- The technique has worked in a range of
animals, from crayfish to guinea pigs, the researchers said. They hope
to test it soon in people.
- "This new approach can almost certainly
be used to rapidly rejoin cut or crushed axons (the part of a nerve cell
through which impulses travel away from the cell body) in humans,"
said George Bittner of the University of Texas at Austin, who led the
- "The technique rejoins the cut or
crushed ends of severed central and peripheral nerve cells so that the
repaired cells again conduct electrical signals through the severed area
within seconds to minutes after they are rejoined," he added.
- Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience,
Bittner and colleagues said they applied a sticky solution of polyethylene
glycol (PEG) to the cut ends of nerve axons for a minute or two. PEG
often is used in medicine and keeps the severed nerve ends together.
- The researchers washed this solution
off and then soaked the nerve ends in calcium salt solutions that resemble
natural body fluids.
- Within minutes, the nerves were transmitting
signals, they said.
- Scientists previously thought that nerve
cells could not be regrown once they were severed, but many recent experiments
have shown this is not true.
- One experimental compound being used
is GM-1 ganglioside, a normal part of a cell's membrane that helps control
cell growth, development and healing following an injury. Researchers
speculated that the compound can cause nerve endings to regrow when used
as a drug.