On 28th September I was invited by AWD Chase de Vere for a behind the scenes look at the progress being made into spinal cord regeneration by Professor Simone de Giovanni and his team at Imperial College, London.
Professor di Giovanni started by speaking about the main clinical aspects of spinal cord injury that represent the most significant challenge to treatment and recovery from this life changing injury.
He then went on to summarise some of the significant progress that has been made to enhance the recovery of function in spinal cord injury and what he and his team are doing to try and clarify the current incomplete understanding that exists insofar as the mechanism of repair after a spinal cord injury is concerned.
He then showed us an example of a pre-clinical drug based treatment originated from his lab that has clear potential for translation in due course into the treatment of spinal cord injury.
Professor de Giovanni’s research suggests that it could one day be possible to chemically reprogram and repair damaged nerves after spinal cord injury.. Currently, the damage to nerve fibres in the central nervous system is irreparable often leaving those who suffer spinal cord injury or brain trauma with serious impairments.
Professor di Giovanni’s research highlights the role of a protein called P300/CBP which appears to be essential for the series of chemical and genetic events that allow nerves to regenerate. In this regard, regenerating nerve fibres is one of the best hopes for those suffering from central nervous system damage to recover some degree of function.
Whilst the findings are very preliminary it is hoped that one day it might be possible to use pharmaceutical methods to trigger the re-growth and repair of the nerves which would result in some level of recovery of spinal cord injured patients, for example, the return of sensation and/or movement in affected limbs.
The day was extremely thought provoking and whilst further intensive research work will be required before a breakthrough in human medicine can be achieved the developments so far provide strong hope that perhaps treatment options are closer than they have ever been before.