Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Cleveland Clinic have restored significant bladder function through nerve regeneration in rats with severe spinal cord injuries.
“While urinary control is complex and recovery took several months, it was clear that this primitive function … does possess the capacity to rewire itself…,” Dr. Silver, one of the lead researchers, said.
The study involved pairing a traditional nerve bridge graft with a new mix of scar degrading and growth factor treatments to grow new nerve cells from the thoracic level to the lower spinal cord region.
“We were especially surprised and excited to discover that once a permissive environment was created, a subset of neurons situated largely within the brainstem, which play important roles in bladder function, slowly re-grew lengthy axons far down the cord,” said Dr. Silver.
The researchers are planning to carry out studies of this method in larger animal models before moving to human clinical trials in the U.S.
Read more about this study here
Results from the study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2013; 33:10591-606).