Could the Mexican salamander hold the key to treating spinal cord trauma?

Up to 40,000 people in the UK are known to be living with a spinal cord injury. Often, damage to the spinal cord is a life-changing injury that can lead to mobility loss and paralysis. Spinal cord damage can also disrupt pain sensors, causing constant painful misfires, and it can cause problems with the function of internal organs. People with severe spinal damage often need round the clock care. Sadly, spinal cord damage is almost always permanent.

However, there could be hope for patients in the future, as scientists in the US have made a significant breakthrough in the treatment of spinal injuries. Researchers have discovered important similarities between the genetic make-up of humans and of axolotls – the Mexican salamander, which is known for its ability to heal and regenerate its limbs and spinal cord. These similarities could help scientists create a drug that will encourage spinal cord regeneration in humans, restoring some or even all mobility for the patient.

Salamander genetics could change spinal cord damage treatment forever

The axolotl is a small amphibious animal which is native to Mexico. It is endangered in the wild, though sometimes kept as a pet, and it is part of the salamander family. When an axolotl is injured, cells in its body regenerate and rebuild the damaged area – it can even grow back lost limbs. Researchers from the University of Minnesota have discovered that the process is made possible by a protein in its body, known as c-Fos, which prompts the glial cells in the spine and limbs to rebuild themselves.

Humans also possess the same proteins and cells as the axolotl. However, in humans those glial cells form scar tissue when damaged, permanently disrupting the spinal cord. Humans have an additional protein – the Jun protein – which causes the glial cells to behave in this manner. It is thought that ‘switching off’ the Jun protein through drug therapy could allow the c-Fos protein to work.

“This knowledge could be used to design new therapeutic targets for treating spinal cord injury or other neurodegenerative diseases,” lead researcher Dr Karen Echeverri concludes.

Have you suffered a spinal cord injury?

Though science is making progress on a cure for spinal injuries, there are still an estimated 1,000 accidents per year in the UK that lead to spinal damage, and the victims of those accidents face a very different life in the future. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, at work, on the road or in a public or commercially owned place, you could be entitled to compensation. A financial settlement cannot undo the damage caused, but it can help you pay for care and treatment in the future, and cover your costs.

If you would like more information about making a spinal injury compensation claim, contact us at Mackrell & Thomas Solicitors today. We support clients in Merseyside and across the North West, providing legal advice and representation on a no win, no fee basis.