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Scientist Regrow Nerves: Paralyzed Rats’ Bladder Function Restored

Update Date: Jun 26, 2013 09:48 AM EDT

Paralysis, in which a part of the body is incapable of moving, can be a very debilitating condition. People who suffer from injuries related to the spinal cord lose function in their lower half of their body. Restoring motor skills along with other functions related to a spinal cord injury is currently not a treatment option. But it could be one day according to U.S. researchers who reported that they were able to give paralyzed rats their bladder functions back after "re-growing" nerve cells at the site of the injury.

Previous researchers have attempted to "re-grow" stem cells by using transplants of nerve cells. These nerve cells would be placed at the site of the injury with the hopes of reconnecting the broken spinal cord. Despite knowing that this could be the answer in treating spinal cord injuries, researchers have had difficulty getting the cells to grow and create new connections.

In this study, the scientists were able to transplant the nerve cells from the ribs into the gap located in the middle of the spinal cord of the paralyzed rats. Since scar tissue in the same region tends to block cell regeneration, the researchers had to come up with a way to promote cell growth. The scientists decided to use a unique type of glue that was capable of encouraging cell growth while breaking down scar tissue. The team found that for the very first time, the nerve cells experienced regrowth for about two centimeters.

"Although animals did not regain the ability to walk, they did recover a remarkable measure of urinary control," the lead author of the study, Dr. Jerry Silver of Case Western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland, OH said according to BBC News.

"This is the first time that significant bladder function has been restored via verve regeneration after a devastating cord injury," co-author, Dr. Yu-Shang Lee from the same institution added.

The researchers hope that their findings could provide new ways of approaching spinal cord paralysis. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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