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Zebrafish may hold the cure for spinal cord injuries

Zebrafish may be as small as your thumb but they are widely studied in the scientific world because of their restorative and healing abilities. Yes, a member of the minnow family is helping scientists unlock the keys to potentially healing cancer, muscular dystrophy, and now, with new research, even spinal cord injuries.

The study was published in the journal, Nature Communications, and conducted by scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Neuroregeneration. The researchers were able to isolate important molecules in zebrafish that jump-start regeneration in damaged nerve fibers.

After an injury in zebrafish, cells known as fibroblasts would go to the affected area and begin to produce a molecule, collagen 12, that prompts regrowth and actually restores the damaged nerve fibers.

This could potentially open up new studies to find treatments for spinal cord injuries in humans. Spinal cord injuries, as of now, are permanent. But thanks to the zebrafish, scientists may be able to unlock ways to restore and repair nerve damage due to spinal cord injury. And like the zebrafish reconnect those nerve fibers.

Amazingly, scientists have found that zebrafish are able to heal fully from a spinal cord injury in just four weeks or less. And now, with this study, the research team at Edinburgh have pinpointed the molecules responsible for this incredible speedy healing.

Dr. Thomas Becker from the Centre for Neuroregeneration said about the next phases of the study, “We next plan to check whether triggering these signals in other animals can help them to repair nerve connections damaged by spinal cord injuries.”

The zebrafish may be a tiny tropical fish but its ability to restore damaged nerve fibers and biological makeup has been of interest to scientists for quite some time now. Potentially holding within its 2-4-centimeter striped body new ways to understand and treat spinal cord injuries and much more.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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