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Epigenetic treatment in the spinal cord after injury

Currently, there is no effective treatment for spinal cord injury; physical rehabilitation can help patients regain some mobility, but in severe cases the results are extremely limited as spinal neurons do not naturally regenerate after injury. However, in a study published September 20 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, researchers led by Simone Di Giovanni of Imperial College London in the UK show that weekly treatments with an epigenetic activator can help sensory and motor neurons in the spinal cord regrow. when given to rats 12 weeks after severe injury.

Building on their past success, the researchers used a small molecule called TTK21 to activate genetic programming that induces axon regeneration in neurons. TTK21 alters the epigenetic state of genes by activating the CBP/p300 coactivator protein family. They tested the TTK21 treatment in a mouse model of severe spinal cord injury. The mice lived in an enriched environment that gave them opportunities to be physically active, as was encouraged in human patients.

Treatment began 12 weeks after the severe spinal cord injury and lasted 10 weeks. Researchers found several improvements after TTK21 treatment compared to control treatment. The most noticeable effect was the sprouting of more axons in the spinal cord. They also found that the retraction of motor axons above the point of injury stopped and sensory axon growth increased. These changes were probably due to the observed increase in regeneration-related gene expression. The next step will be to amplify these effects and trigger regenerated axons to reconnect to the rest of the nervous system so that animals can regain their ability to move with ease.

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