rat bladderDuring a recent study, researchers reportedly restored bladder function in paralyzed rats. The researchers note that they used a novel technique designed to promote the regeneration of nerve cells across the site of severe spinal cord injury (SCI).

According to a news release, the researchers delivered an enzyme called chondroitinase to disrupt scar formation in tandem with a chemical called fibroblast growth factor intended to promote cell survival as they performed nerve graft surgery at the site of the injury.

The results suggest that after 3 and 6 months, researchers noted the rats that received this blended treatment exhibited a significant return of bladder function, as indicated by measurements of urine output. The researchers add that they also saw regrowth of some brainstem cells across the injury site. Jerry Silver, PhD, Case Western Reserve Medical School, states that while the animals did not regain the ability to walk, they did recover “a remarkable measure of urinary control.”

According to Silver, “This is the first time that significant bladder function has been restored via nerve regeneration after a devastating cord injury.” Silver adds that the researchers were surprised by the results, which indicated a subset of nerve cells situated largely in the brainstem could slowly regrow far down the spinal cord once a permissive environment that allowed them past the site of the scar was provided.

While further research is required prior to testing this type of therapy in humans, Elizabeth Bradbury, PhD, SCI researcher at King’s College London, who was not involved in the study, adds that, “This remarkable advance offers great hope for the future of restoring bladder function to spinal cord injury patients.”

[Source: Society for Neuroscience]