Dancing molecules that make quadriplegic mice walk again

Injecting them activates a molecular network that binds to injured tissue, and quadriplegic mice walk again thanks to dancing molecules.

Science is making great strides, and often researchers' discoveries seem almost impossible to even hope for.

Dancing molecules help quadriplegic mice

The discovery took place in the United States, at Northwestern University, which not for the first time has made important discoveries thanks to mice. Researchers injected mice that had lost mobility in their hind legs with a specific molecule, which began to move around the spinal cord injury as if it were dancing. Receptors in the mice's cells became more activated and stimulated regeneration.

Four weeks of injections were all it took, and the mice that previously dragged their hind legs started moving again using all four limbs.

Possible human applications

Scientists are waiting for the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing the dancing cells in humans, with hopes of healing spinal trauma and stroke, but also neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS.

In practice, a liquid is injected near the injury. This fluid thickens and forms a molecular network similar to that in the spinal model, which can be maneuvered to facilitate binding to cells in the human or animal body.

"The molecules in the network must be able to move rapidly to bind to cells in the human body, which are in constant motion," explains Samuel Stupp, one of the researchers. It's a complex technique, because each network injected into the body is made up of 10,000 molecules that need to move and "dance" within the network to latch onto a receptor in the body.

When this connection occurs, two cascades of signals are activated: one stimulates the regeneration of neurons, the other gives rise to new blood vessels that feed the cells. There's a third effect: the production of myelin, which facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses.

The researchers say there's a good chance this technique could be used in humans: "The central nervous system tissues we regenerated in the injured spinal cord of mice," Stupp explains, "are similar to those in the brains of humans affected by stroke and neurodegenerative diseases."