As stated by scientists, a drug-based therapy appears to restore breathing in rats paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal injury.

Even though this is an exciting finding but early, scientists hope that their findings ultimately help free patients from ventilators.

The pioneering work, in cell Reports, suggests the brain may not be needed for respiration if a nerve pathway in the spine can be awakened.


Normally, messages to and from the brain control breathing.

The spinal cord damage high up in the neck stops messages from getting through and a person will need mechanical assistance or a ventilator to breathe.


Experts have been looking for a way to repair spinal cord damage to connect with the brain, but the latest therapeutic approach, being explored at Case  Western University, is entirely different.




Dr. Jerry Silver and his Colleagues believe they have found another possibility of nerve pathway for breathing in the spinal cord itself.

The researchers used a drug and light therapy known as optogenetics to dial up this spinal system.


The live adult rats that researchers studied had severed spinal cords, this shows that the brain could not be the source of the diaphragm movement or breathing that the researchers saw after they administered the therapy.


They found that the treatment works by stopping other nerve signals that would normally silence in the spinal system.  This is a primitive response that has been kept in the spinal cord for emergencies, said Dr. Silver.

Researchers say the movement they saw resembled breathing but it is not clear that it would be enough to save life.


According to Dr. Silver, the goal is to free people with these neck injuries from having to use mechanical ventilators, which in some cases infections and other complications from these mechanical ventilators are a leading cause of death after spinal cord injuries.


This is an important discovery on the fundamental working of the spinal cord, and the first step toward future therapies, he also added that this knowledge could be used for future therapies to restore breathing in patients who lost nerve connections to the brain as a consequence of spinal cord injury, said Dr. Thomas Becker an expert in neuroregeneration at Edinburgh Medical School.


Researchers plan more animal studies to check.

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