Immune cells could hold key to therapies for spinal cord injuries

Immune cells could hold key to therapies for spinal cord injuries


Monday, 12 November, 2018

New research led by Professor Catherina Becker (Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences) has provided fresh insights into how zebrafish repair their damaged nerve connections which could aid the development of therapies for people with spinal cord injuries.

Researchers found that the immune system plays a key role in helping zebrafish nerve cells to regenerate after injury. Macrophages, which generally help the body to fight off infections and also play a role in wound healing, were found to be vital for zebrafish to repair damaged connections. 

It was found that macrophages produce key molecules that dampen inflammation at the spinal injury site. This enables nerve cells to bridge the gap and repair lost connections.

These findings offer clues for developing treatments that could one day help people to regain movement after spinal cord injury.

The study was published in Nature Communications and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Professor Catherina Becker said: “Zebrafish are interesting to us because they can regain full swimming ability after spinal cord injury.  Our research is focused on understanding the factors involved in this process so that we can look for potential ways of developing treatments for people.”