Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Associate Professor Ona E. Bloom, PhD, along with colleagues at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), published today in Scientific Reports that many of the genes that repair an injured spinal cord in a fish called the lamprey are also active in the repair of the peripheral nervous system in mammals. This discovery is significant because it shows the possibility that the same or similar genes may be used to improve spinal cord repair in other animals and perhaps eventually lead to therapeutic developments for humans.
“Scientists have known for many years that the lamprey achieves spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, but we have not known the molecular recipe that accompanies and supports this remarkable capacity,” said Dr. Bloom, associate professor at the Feinstein Institute and associate professor and director of research at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. “In this study, we have determined all the genes that change during the course of recovery in the lamprey. Now that we have that information, we can use it to test if specific pathways are actually essential to the process.”
Lampreys are jawless, eel-like fish that, about 550 million years ago, shared a common ancestor with humans. The observation that a lamprey can fully recover from a severed spinal cord without medication or other treatment is what spurred this study. They can go from paralysis to full swimming behaviors in 10 to 12 weeks.