17November2018

Zebra fish’s self-healing could help spinal injury victims

Findings in a new study revealed that zebra fish, Danio rerio, has been graced with a special characteristic. It has been recovered that the fish has a special protein, which provides the fish with a self-healing ability.

Ability of Zebrafish to Regenerate Organs Pave Way for Regeneration of Spinal Co

The tropical fish, belonging to the family Cyprinidae, is a popular aquarium species and also is also majorly used in scientific research.

The ability that this species of fish has can help it regenerate fins, skin, heart and even brain.

However, researchers of the study have claimed that the finding of the study can pave out ways to regenerate spinal cords in humans.

Scientists have decoded the secrets of the zebra fish’s amazing ability to heal its spinal cord after injury. The findings could eventually pave the way to stimulate spinal cord regeneration in humans, especially for those who are partly or completely paralysed.

A protein called fgf plays a major role in the remarkable self-healing ability of the fish, said Yona Goldshmit and Peter Currie, professor, who led the research team at the Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

When the spinal cord is severed in humans and other mammals, the immune system kicks in, activating specialized cells called glia to prevent bleeding into it, Currie was quoted as saying in The Journal of Neuroscience.

“Glia are the workmen of nervous system. The glia proliferate, forming bigger cells that span the wound site in order to prevent bleeding into it. They come in and try to sort out problems. A glial scar forms,” Currie said.

However, the scar prevents axons, thread-like structures of nerve cells that carry signals to the brain, of neighbouring nerve cells from penetrating the wound. The result is paralysis, said a university statement.

“The axons upstream and downstream of the lesion (injury) sites are never able to penetrate the glial scar to reform. This is a major barrier in mammalian spinal cord regeneration,” Currie said.

Conversely, the zebra fish glia form a bridge that spans the injury site but allow the penetration of axons into it.

Fgf or fibroblast growth factor, controlled the shape of the glia, and accounted for the difference in the response to spinal cord injury between humans and zebra fish.

The fish can fully regenerate its spinal cord within two months of injury. “You can’t tell there’s been any wound at all,” Currie said.

The scientists showed fgf could be manipulated in the zebra fish to speed up tissue repair even more.

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