Scientists have discovered genes that can cure paralysis after a back injury

© Depositphotos / CLIPAREAРабота spineScientists have discovered genes that can cure paralysis after a back injury© Depositphotos / CLIPAREA

Genetics found in the DNA of lampreys unusual set of genes, activated during the damage to their back and forcing the broken cells of the spinal cord to re-establish links with each other, and found their counterparts in the human genome, according to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.

«We knew for many years that even the most serious spinal injury spontaneously healed from lampreys, but we had no idea what molecules are responsible for this miracle cure. We’ve uncovered all of the genes that are involved during this process, and now we can start looking for those DNA sequences that are directly responsible for repairing the spinal cord,» said She, bloom (Ona Bloom) from the Institute for medical research in Manhasset Faustina (USA).

Spinal cord injury in most cases leads to partial or complete paralysis of the limbs, depending on the injury. Today, scientists are developing several methods of treating such injuries. In most cases, biologists are trying to use stem cells to restore connections between the parts of the spinal cord. There are fundamentally different methods of connection of the limbs to the brain by means of electrodes.

Bloom and her colleagues have taken the first step towards the creation of fundamentally new, «natural» methods of repair of the damaged spine, watching as this process occurs in the body of lampreys – primitive fishes lacking jaws and a hard skeleton. Such living beings dominated the Earth’s oceans about 550 million years ago, and today there are only a few dozen species of them, leading polyparasitism lifestyle.

These fish, despite their primitiveness and homeliness have one interesting «superpower» – they can get rid of the paralysis and heal spinal cord injury in a very short time. This skill is vital for lamprey, as their spinal cord is surrounded by only soft cartilaginous tissue and are not protected from damage.

To explore its secrets, scientists have gained a few adult lampreys have damaged them a «spine» and began to observe changes in gene activities in the cells of their brain and spinal cord. This allowed them to reveal the entire chain of genes that are involved in the splicing of damaged nervous tissue, and to find their main «switch» – gene Wnt associated with the development of the embryo and migration of stem cells.

By itself, the Wnt is not responsible for repair of the spinal cord or regeneration of other tissues, and «includes» several other combinations of genes such as FOXC1, LEF1 and NFKB1 responsible for specific aspects of the recovery of damaged tissue. These chains, in turn, activated a few tens of other genes in neurons and supporting tissue of the spinal cord, responsible for the regeneration of the immediate relations between its halves.

Opening these chains of genes, the researchers tested whether they are the main «conductors» of the regeneration of vertebrae in lampreys, blocking Wnt work chemically. As shown by this experiment, these fish never regained his spinal cord and was left paralyzed for life.

Interestingly, most of these genes are 96% match its structure with similar portions of human DNA that suggests that the same system of repair of the spinal cord can be forced to «include» and in people suffering from paralysis as a result of fracture of the spine or any back injuries.