A study at Johns Hopkins University has revealed that it may be possible to regrow nerves after severe spinal cord injuries. The findings are good news for injuries involving arm trauma in which nerves are torn from the spinal cord. Advancements in the research may prevent the need for amputation in the case of such injuries.
The researchers treated experimental nerve injuries in rats with an enzyme called sialidase that they isolated from bacteria. Four weeks later, more than twice as many nerves in the spinal cords of sialidase-treated rats grew new nerve fibers compared to untreated rats.
The experimental injury in rats mimicked an injury in humans that may occur during childbirth or in a motorcycle accident when an arm is pulled violently away from the body. This injury causes nerves to be yanked out of
the spinal cord. Without these nerves, the arm loses feeling and muscle tone. Without muscle tone, the body cannot support the weight of the arm, and many health problems can develop.
The success of sialidase treatment has encouraged researchers to begin studying the effects of the enzyme on other types of injuries as well.