AsianScientist (Jun. 17, 2013) – Researchers in Australia will begin clinical trials for spinal cord injury by blocking a protein called EphA4.
Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), and the University of Melbourne showed in the Journal of Neurotrauma that blocking protein EphA4 could rapidly restore the balance and limb coordination in rat spinal injury models.
QBI Director and study co-leader, Professor Perry Bartlett, said the research confirmed and expanded on previous studies showing that blocking the action of this protein receptor prevented the loss of nerve tissue following injury and promoted repair.
In 1998, Professor Bartlett and QIMR Professor Andrew Boyd showed that the EphA4 protein was critical to the development of the nerves which control walking and other complex muscle functions.
Subsequent studies showed that after a spinal cord injury, the production of the EphA4 protein was increased and this protein acted to stop severed nerve endings from regrowing through the injury site.
The two laboratories then co-developed a “decoy” protein, to block, or inhibit EphA4 function. This has been used to improve recovery of function after spinal cord injury in animals.
“That first discovery back in 1998 opened up a clear path to a potential treatment for any diseases or injuries involving motor nerves,” Boyd said. “The idea would be to use the ‘decoy’ treatment immediately after spinal cord injury to try to improve the patient’s recovery. And as a neurologist or neurosurgeon will tell you, if you could improve function even marginally for a quadriplegic, you could make a massive difference to their life.”
Source: UQ; Photo: planetc1/Flickr/CC.
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