Gene Therapy Repairs Spinal Cord Injury

Wednesday Series: Innovation Addressing World Needs - Gene Therapy Repairs Spinal Cord Damage 
 Spinal Cord Neurons

The numbers are staggering.  270,000 Americans are paralyzed by spinal cord injuries.  80% of them are male and 16 to 30 years old.  There has been no regenerative treatment to reverse the spinal cord damage.  Until now, there's reason for hope.  Researchers at Kings College London have demonstrated that rats with spinal cord injury re-learn skilled hand movement after being treated with gene therapy.

Strong Human to Animal Correlation
These findings are significant because humans and rats use a similar sequence of movements when reaching and grasping objects.  The hope and expectation is that it will work on human spinal cord victims too.  It's so important because people with spinal cord injury often lose their ability to do everyday functions like writing, holding a fork and brushing their teeth.  The very basic things that we take for granted.

Top Priority
Regaining hand function for spinal cord injury victims has been a top priority.  It dramatically improves the patient's quality of life and their independence.  Until now, no regenerative treatment has been available to do that.

Gene Switch
Kings College researchers used a new gene therapy for regenerating tissue damaged in the spinal cord that can be switched on and off using an antibiotic.  The gene therapy treats large areas of the spinal cord with only one injection.  With the "switch", doctors can precisely control how long the therapy is needed, thereby optimizing recovery time.

Next Steps
The gene therapy treatment on rats was highly successful.  Next steps are larger animal testing and then human trials.  This is medical innovation addressing one of the world's most pressing needs - recovery from spinal cord injury.