Scientists have determined a gene signature that is linked to the severity of spinal cord injury in animals and humans, according to a study in the open-access journal eLife.
The discovery of key genes that are switched on or off in response to spinal cord injury could inform the development of biomarkers that predict recovery and possibly pinpoint new targets for treatment.
At the moment, there are no widely available treatments capable of immediately restoring motor and sensory function after injury. A major barrier is the lack of understanding of the complex cascade of biological processes that occur when a spinal cord injury happens.
“Our understanding of the pathophysiological processes triggered by spinal cord injury is fragmentary,” explains senior author Michael Skinnider, a medical and PhD student at the University of British Columbia, Canada. “We set out to integrate the data from decades of small-scale studies using a systems biology approach.”
The team first reviewed past experiments to find genes associated with the response to spinal cord injury, searching through more than 500 studies. They found 695 unique human genes that had been linked with the response to spinal cord injury and, of these, 151 were linked in more than one study. Further analysis showed that the genes are biologically and functionally related, coding for groups of protein molecules that physically interact with one another.