Tiny Fish Could Cure Spinal-Cord Injuries
A substance found in the zebrafish could point the way toward avoiding paralysis in cases of spinal cord injury, a study found.
When a person suffers a spinal-cord injury, cells known as glia prevent blood from pouring into the wound by forming a scar. But at the same time, the scar prevents axons, nerve cells that communicate with the brain, from penetrating the scar. And that is what causes paralysis.
But in zebrafish, a tiny member of the minnow family, the glia allow the axons to penetrate, resulting in a complete regeneration of the spinal cord within two months. “You can’t tell there’s been any wound at all,” said researcher Peter Currie, of the Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).
A protein called fibroblast growth factor (fgf) is responsible for the different response in humans and zebrafish.
“The hope is that fgf could eventually be used to promote better results in spinal cord repair in people,” Currie said in a statement.