Researchers have identified a potential target for drug treatment of spinal cord injuries.
Cells in spinal cord scar tissue release molecules that prevent severed nerve fibres from passing the damaged area and making new connections that would restore feeling and movement.
In the new study, researchers identified where these molecules -- chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) -- bind to the surface of neurons. This location may offer a target for drug therapy.
Scientists have been searching for this "docking station" for nearly two decades. It was known that CSPGs inhibit regeneration of nerve fibres, but it wasn't known how the molecules did it, explained senior study author John Flanagan, a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
What the findings mean
Now that the site where CSPGs bind to neurons is identified, researchers can begin looking for molecules that will block this docking station and other ways to disrupt it.
"This discovery suggests that we might be able to treat central nervous system injuries with a pill in the future. In reality, we'll probably need a drug cocktail because CSPGs are not the only barrier to regeneration," said study co-author Jerry Silver, a professor at Case Western Reserve University.
The study was published in the journal Science. – (HealthDay News, October 2009)
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