Published June 26, 2013
Researchers have discovered a way to regenerate nerves in mice that have been damaged by spinal cord injuries, restoring their bladder function, Medical Daily reported.
When paralysis occurs, the bladder is one of the organs most affected. Bladder control is maintained through signaling that occurs between the brain and the spinal cord. But after a spinal injury, that messaging is disrupted, often putting patients at a greater risk for urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Previous research has been unsuccessful at achieving any significant nerve regeneration in mice with spinal injuries. However, in the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers successfully achieved nerve regrowth by adding a combination of a previously inhibited enzyme, chonrdoitinase, and a fibroblast growth factor (FGF) to the site of the injury. After adding a graft to the site, the nerves in the spinal cord grew back by up to 12 millimeters, Medical Daily reported.
Though the mice were not able to walk, they did experience a restoration of bladder function. Mice were 40 percent more capable of emptying their bladders completely and were able to willfully control their bladders. The treated mice could also hold nearly three times the volume in their bladders compared to untreated mice, according to Medical Daily.
"This is the first time that significant bladder function has been restored via nerve regeneration after a devastating cord injury,” Yu-Shang Lee, of the Cleveland clinic and one of the study’s authors, said.
Though the treatment has not yet been tested in humans, researchers are hopeful that it will lead to similar breakthroughs in people suffering from spinal cord injuries.