Human Trials of Canine Paralysis Treatment to Begin

Human trials will begin shortly on an implantable device that successfully promoted nerve regrowth in dogs and may be able to increase nerve regeneration in people who suffer from some forms of spinal cord injury.

In experiments with dogs, the device stimulated regrowth of nerve cells if the device was implanted within two weeks after certain spinal cord injuries. The device emits a very weak electrical field of about 600 microvolts per millimeter which mimics the electrical field present during rapid nerve growth in human and animal embryos.

In canine trials, about 85 percent of the injured animals showed improvements in bodily functions, including a few who regained the ability to walk after being paralyzed. Whether or not such results will translate to human beings remains to be seen.

“Something will happen,” neurosurgeon Scott Shapiro told the Associated Press. “The question is how robust the response will be. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

As Naomi Kleitman, education director for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, told the Associated Press,

The fact that they’re going to a clinical trial in Indianapolis is very exciting and it’s good evidence that the field has made progress, but obviously we have to be realistic. There’s no guarantee any of this will work in humans.

But, of course, it is important to go ahead and try, regardless of the outcome.


Trials begin for paralysis patients. Rick Callahan, The Associated Press, December 10, 2000.

White blood cells restore spinal cords in mice

Israeli researcher Michal Schwartz
of the Weitzmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, recently reported
a new finding that might lead to better treatments for human beings with
|spinal cord| injuries.

In his experiments, Schwartz took
rats whose spinal cords had been severed so their hind legs were paralyzed.
She then treated the rats with their own white blood cells. Many of the
animals who received this treatment experienced a restoration of some
movement in their hind legs. The results of the experiment were reported
in the July issue of Natural Medicine.

Schwartz said there is “a
long way to go to see whether it works in humans,” but her finding is
the latest in a series of recent advances in understanding spinal cord
injuries and one of several recent treatment regimens that have shown
promise in laboratory animals.

In fact, Schwartz believes her discovery
might explain why spinal cord cells, unlike other nerve cells, don’t
usually regenerate after being damaged. In other injuries, macrophages
(white blood cells) would race to the site of the damage to help repair
it. In spinal cord injuries, however, this doesn’t happen.


“White blood cells regenerate severed spines in rats,” Malcolm Ritter,
Associated Press, June 29, 1998.

Animal experiments lead to possible breakthrough in treatment of spinal cord injuries

A study published in the June issue
of Nature Neuroscience reveals just how far scientists have
come in understanding, and possibly someday correcting, |spinal cord| injuries.

Martin Schwab, of the Institute
for Brain Research at the University of Zurich in Sweden, and his colleagues
took rats and cut the nerve fibers in the rats’ brain stem. This
operation effectively removed the ability of the rats to exercise fine
motor control of their front limbs, making it impossible for them to climb
ropes or grasp food pellets.

Then the researchers injected the
rats with a specially engineered antibody called IN-1. Those rats receiving
IN-1 grew new nerve fibers that took over for the damaged fibers. Both
rats and human beings produce growth inhibitors which usually prevent
new fibers from growing. The Zurich researchers hope the things they have
learned in neutralizing these inhibitors in rats will help them to find
a way to neutralize them in human beings.

“This study re-emphasizes
the role of the non-injured nervous system in compensating for the loss
of function after damage,” said Michael Beattie, a neuroscience professor
at Ohio State University who specializes in spinal cord injury. “The
work they’ve done suggests that they’re on the right track to
understanding how to produce therapies that can enhance repair and recovery
of function.”


Jane E. Allen “New hope for repairing spinal injuries” Associated
Press, May 18, 1998.