Working 2 Walk

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Archive for the ‘Wise Young’ Category

Congressional Briefing

Posted by katewillette on April 15, 2008

Here’s what it’s like . . . you reserve a room in one of the office buildings near the capitol.  You make sure there’s coffee and tea plus the usual tray of cut-up fruit – maybe some muffins or sliced bagels.  Neat rows of bottled water and juice.

Your presenters show up with their laptops, wearing dark suits and ties, carrying their notes in their pockets.  (Dark suits and ties– or heels, for those of us who are not male –are required attire here.  It’s very obvious who the regulars are in any room.)  You hope for some congressional aides and maybe even the press.  We have 6 scientists here this morning, plus several people in chairs and more than a dozen activists.

We start on time, more or less, although there are almost no guests from the congress or the media.  Possibly the problem is that this is the day the pope is in town . . . possibly we’re too early in the day . . . possibly –as usual—there are too many other priorities.

Wise Young gets up to introduce the session and name the speakers . . . he’s talking as if there were a crowd of aides here.  First to speak is Dr. Pearse from the Miami Project; he explains what MP is – an organization devoted to curing spinal cord injury.  He’s just said this is a very good time to be working in this field because there are so many extremely promising therapies.  The issue, he says, is that we need funding to bring the research forward . . . many young scientists are considering leaving not just sci research but science itself because they can’t do their work.

Stephen Davies gets up to tell us about two new and exciting therapies.  He’s showing his slide that has the axons straggling toward the injury site and being stopped by a scar.  His strategy is twofold – to get rid of the scar and to encourage the axons to grow past it.  His lab has discovered that there’s a substance called Decorin that breaks down the scar tissue in an injured cord.  What about the business of getting axons to grow?  An NIH-funded group from the University of Rochester isolated a type of cell called a glial-restricted precursor that can be coaxed into forming another cell called an astrocyte.  The combination of astrocytes and Decorin is an extremely promising therapy, and Dr. Davies wants very much to bring it clinical trials, hopefully (since he’s an academic and not a businessman) through the NIH.

Less than 10% of SCI grant requests are being funded.  The breakthrough that Dr. Davies achieved with his astrocyte cells was originally funded by the NIH . . . but it’s likely that under current conditions his application would not have been funded.  We must assume that there are plenty of grant applications currently sitting in drawers, unfunded.  This is science that could be done but isn’t.

Dr. Simon Archibald gets up to say that we’re NOT looking now for the way to restore function through therapies, because we have therapies that have been shown to work –but instead how to choose the best combination of those therapies.  We’re at a critical point, where the process of getting from labs to patients is finally underway.  It must be funded.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cethrin, NIH, paralysis, spinal cord injury, Wise Young | 1 Comment »

Breakout 1: Wise Young

Posted by katewillette on April 13, 2008

Gahh, my laptop just had a meltdown, so I’ve been frantically trying to fix it and simultaneously take notes.

Wise has been doing the quick rundown about what an injury to the cord means, physiologically.  If I had to miss something, I guess this part would have been my first choice . . . it’s the standard information. He’s explaining how it is that things pass through damaged cords. . .  talking about reflexes . . . he says that Chris Reeve’s reflexes were so strong that if you gave him a hug, his spacticity would toss his 250# body right out of the chair.

He says that people should stop thinking about axons as if they were wires . . . they’re not.  They’re living body parts, like arms.  And when we talk about regenerating them, we’re talking about re-growing body parts.

It takes a long time to grow an axon–as long as a year for a quad to get an axon all the way down the cord.

Spasms are the result of messages from above that get mixed up trying to get through the dead part of the spine.  Neuropathic pain is the result of messages from below that get mixed up trying to get through the dead part.

Putting in stem cells and expecting people to walk is never going to work, because 3 things are necessary for regeneration.

The first one is to replace the damaged injury site with something that is hospitable to axonal growth, but not so hospitable that the axons enjoy the environment so much that they just stay there.  What we need is something just friendly enough to be a bridge.  Hello, nice to see you, move along.

The second one is to have something that is a sustained source of growth factors that will stimulate the system to grow and keep growing.

The third one is to find a way to deal with the things natural to the cord that inhibit growth–the blockers.

In order to get regeneration, we need all 3: a bridge, a source of growth factors, and blockers.

The process of figuring out how to make this work in humans is about combination therapies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Christopher Reeve, Combination therapies, Regeneration, spasticity, Wise Young | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »