Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer drug aids regeneration of spinal cord after injuries

Date:
January 28, 2011
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
After a spinal cord injury a number of factors impede the regeneration of nerve cells. Two of the most important of these factors are the destabilization of the cytoskeleton and the development of scar tissue. While the former prevents regrowth of cells, the latter creates a barrier for severed nerve cells. Scientists have now shown that the cancer drug Taxol reduces both regeneration obstacles.

The scar tissue creates a barrier for growing nerve cells in spinal cord injuries. Scientists have now found a way to render this cell wall more permeable for regenerating nerve cells.
Credit: Copyright Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology / Bradke & Hellal

After a spinal cord injury a number of factors impede the regeneration of nerve cells. Two of the most important of these factors are the destabilization of the cytoskeleton and the development of scar tissue. While the former prevents regrowth of cells, the latter creates a barrier for severed nerve cells. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and their colleagues from the Kennedy Krieger Institute and University of Miami in the United States, and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, have now shown that the cancer drug Taxol reduces both regeneration obstacles.

Paraplegia. This is often the long-lasting result, when nerve fibers have been crushed or cut in the spinal cord. In contrast, for example, to the nerves in a cut finger, the injured nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS) won't regrow. Scientists have been working for decades to discover the reasons for this discrepancy in the regeneration abilities of nerve cells. They have found a variety of factors that prevent the regeneration of CNS nerve cells. One by one a number of substances that act like stop signs and halt the resumption of growth have been discovered. Other obstacles lie within the cells: The microtubules, small protein tubes which compose the cells' cytoskeleton, are completely jumbled in an injured CNS nerve cell. A structured growth becomes impossible. In addition to this, the lost tissue is progressively replaced by scar tissue creating a barrier for growing nerve cells.

Understanding regeneration

Frank Bradke and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried study the mechanisms inside CNS nerve cells responsible for stopping their growth: "We try to provoke the cells to ignore the stop signs so that they regrow." For this task, the neurobiologists have focused on studying the role of microtubules. These protein tubes have a parallel arrangement in the tip of growing nerve cells, stabilizing cells and actively pushing the cell end forward. This arrangement is lost in injured CNS cells. So how can the order of the microtubule be kept or regained in these cells? And once the cells start growing, how can they overcome the barrier of the scar tissue? Together with their colleagues from the United States and the Netherlands, the Max Planck scientists have now found a common solution for both problems.

New application for an established drug

Taxol, the trade name of a drug currently used for cancer treatment, has now been shown to promote regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells. The scientists report in the online issue of the journal Science that Taxol promotes regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells in two ways: Taxol stabilizes the microtubules so that their order is maintained and the injured nerve cells regain their ability to grow. In addition, Taxol prevents the production of an inhibitory substance in the scar tissue. The scar tissue, though reduced by Taxol, will still develop at the site of injury and can thus carry out its protective function. Yet growing nerve cells are now better able to cross this barrier. "This is literally a small breakthrough," says Bradke.

Experiments in rats performed by this group verified the effects of Taxol. These researchers supplied the injury site after a partial spinal cord lesion with Taxol via a miniature pump. After just a few weeks, animals showed a significant improvement in their movements. "So far we tested the effects of Taxol immediately after a lesion," explains Farida Hellal, the first author of the study. "The next step is to investigate whether Taxol is as effective when applied onto an existing scar several months after the injury."

Cautious hope

The fact that a clinically approved drug shows these effects has a number of advantages. Much is already known about its interactions with the human body. In addition, Taxol can be applied directly at the site of injury for the treatment of spinal cord injuries and the amount needed is far less than what is used in cancer therapy. This should reduce side effects. "We are still in the state of basic research and a variety of obstacles remain -- and eventually, pre-clinical trials will need to be done ," cautions Bradke. "However, I believe that we are on a very promising path."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. Hellal, A. Hurtado, J. Ruschel, K. C. Flynn, C. J. Laskowski, M. Umlauf, L. C. Kapitein, D. Strikis, V. Lemmon, J. Bixby, C. C. Hoogenraad, F. Bradke. Microtubule Stabilization Reduces Scarring and Causes Axon Regeneration After Spinal Cord Injury. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1201148

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Cancer drug aids regeneration of spinal cord after injuries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110128095038.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2011, January 28). Cancer drug aids regeneration of spinal cord after injuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110128095038.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Cancer drug aids regeneration of spinal cord after injuries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110128095038.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

AFP (July 28, 2014) The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic grips west Africa, killing hundreds. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins