Cancer drug improves spinal cord regeneration

A spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury can drastically alter a person’s life. We need to find treatments that can promote better recovery from these type of injuries. New research reported in Science magazine found that a well know cancer drug leads to better regeneration and improvement in functional recovery after spinal cord injuries.

Taxol, the trade name of a drug currently used for cancer treatment, has now been shown to promote regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells. The scientists report in the online issue of the journalScience that Taxol promotes regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells in two ways: Taxol stabilizes the microtubules so that their order is maintained and the injured nerve cells regain their ability to grow. In addition, Taxol prevents the production of an inhibitory substance in the scar tissue. The scar tissue, though reduced by Taxol, will still develop at the site of injury and can thus carry out its protective function. Yet growing nerve cells are now better able to cross this barrier. “This is literally a small breakthrough”, says Bradke.

 Since taxol is already clinically used for some cancer treatments it will face less regulartory hurdles for its use in treating spinal cord injuries if other groups find similar results when they try to replicate this study. 

Taxol not only increased growth but more importantly improved recovery of the animals from the experimentally induced spinal cord injury.

Experiments in rats performed by this group verified the effects of Taxol. These researchers supplied the injury site after a partial spinal cord lesion with Taxol via a miniature pump. After just a few weeks, animals showed a significant improvement in their movements. “So far we tested the effects of Taxol immediately after a lesion”, explains Farida Hellal, the first author of the study. “The next step is to investigate whether Taxol is as effective when applied onto an existing scar several months after the injury.”

To have optimum brain health you obviously want an fully intact central nervous system, so if we can find a treatment that helps grow the central nervous system back closer to its original state after an injury would be of great benefit.

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