Radiation regenerates spinal cord in rats
September 30, 1996
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Brian Jenkins
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Four to five months after researchers
severed its spinal cord, one laboratory rat exhibits the
expected result: splayed rear legs and a complete lack of
muscle control beyond the point where the cord was cut.
But another rat, whose spinal cord was similarly severed, has
regained enough control to support its hindquarters.
The difference, according to researchers, is a dose of
radiation applied to a small area around the injury some 17
or 18 days after the cord was cut.
The radiation destroyed a type of cell that starts to block
the natural repair process of the spinal cord, a process that
allows nerves to begin regeneration.
"About two-thirds of the muscles that are very close to the
cut, say in the hip area ... the brain regained control of
those muscles," said researcher Nurit Kalderon.
Kalderon conducted her studies at The Rockefeller University
in New York, and her reports appear this week in a
publication of the National Academy of Sciences.
She said her research does not offer the prospect of
directly helping people who have already suffered spinal cord
injuries. But in the future, specialized X-ray therapy could
be used to help newly-injured patients, she said.
Whether it could help spinal cord patients walk again is not
at all clear. Still, with physical therapy, she argues,
people could regain more muscle control than the rats did in
Some doctors at a workshop in Washington on spinal cord
injuries viewed the new findings with caution.
"One of the problems is that very high doses of radiation are
used, doses which normally kill cells," said Dr. Zach Hall,
of the National Institutes of Health.
But Kalderon believes enough is known about radiation therapy
to insure that dosages could be kept at a safe level for
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.