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Enzyme Found To Help Formation of New Axons

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the some-nerve dept.

Medicine 88

Greg George writes "Researchers at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology have announced that they have found an enzyme that helps nerves to grow in areas damaged after trauma. In typical injuries, scar tissue forms around the damage point and the body removes the tissue so that new muscle and nerves can regrow in the damaged area. In spinal cord injuries, scar tissue forms and that is the end of the story. Special chemicals form that stop the body's cells from moving in and removing the scar tissue and then allowing the healing process to start. Studies have been done attempting to bypass the scar tissue, but none has been successful in large-scale repair of injured muscle and nerves in the spinal column. The researchers for this paper have found that sugar proteins near the damage point stop the healing and that an enzyme can be used to break down these proteins so that the body can then begin repairs. The enzyme, chondroitinase ABC (chABC), is sensitive to heat, and breaks down quickly in a human body. To stop that process they found that by replacing the ABC with another sugar called trehalose, they were able to stabilize the ABC, allowing it to break down scar tissue over a large area. The gel formed by these sugars is stable for up to six weeks in the bodies of test animals, allowing the research team to inject growth factors that increased the healing, to the point that the animals started to use their limbs again. The work is still in the beginning stages." Reuters reporting adds a few more details: "...many other approaches will be needed to repair spinal cord injuries in humans, including controlling inflammation, which can cause additional injury, stimulating nerve fiber growth, and getting nerves to reconnect and communicate with the brain."

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Oh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006548)

Oh Christopher Reeve,
Why did you leave,
Dr. Scientist has arrived with a trick up his sleeve!

That's great an all... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006584)

But what about the enzyme to help Rob Malda's penis grow beyond that of the size of a toddler's?

Re:That's great an all... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006650)

What the fuck. This is the first time I've visited Slashdot in two years (I've been at Digg most of that time), and the second comment in is about micropenises.

This reminds me of why I left Slashdot in the first place. Digg is full of Apple queers, but the topic of micropenises NEVER comes up there.

Re:That's great an all... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006696)

Digg is full of Apple queers, but the topic of micropenises NEVER comes up there.

Why would queers be interested in micropenises?

Re:That's great an all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006928)

That's not the second comment, it's a reply to the first comment. Just like this isn't the fourth comment.

It's easy to get good page placement. Just reply to the top comment. It tends to get you tagged offtopic, troll, and flamebait, though, unless you're actually responding to the comment you replied to.

Captcha: responds

Re:That's great an all... (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008016)

I can't say I've seen a lot of micropenis comments here. You just have bad luck. On the other hand, surf at -1 and lot's of other off topic nasties do pop up.

I can finally be free.. (2, Funny)

Xerfas (1625945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006550)

Researchers at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology have announced that they have found an enzyme that helps nerves to grow in areas damaged after trauma.

I can finally be free of the mental image of goatse!

Re:I can finally be free.. (2, Funny)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007658)

For that you need to destroy brain cells, not grow them. I suggest vodka until you fall over.

---

Humour [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

tl;dr (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006568)

Sometimes I read a summary here on Slashdot and wonder why the submitter left out crucial pieces of information.

Then there are summaries like this which throw everything and the kitchen sink in. What's worse, there is only one submitted link, so it's not like there are multiple sources gathered together making this summary long, it's just a lazy submitter cutting and pasting from the article.

Growing axons is a nice step, but Christopher Reeves is dead already. It'll be hard to get another celebrity to put their weight behind this kind of research.

Re:tl;dr (5, Informative)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007782)

It'll be hard to get another celebrity to put their weight behind this kind of research

You are incorrect.

I spoke recently with Doctor Charlotte Smith of the Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas, who has seen regrowth of spinal nerve cells in patients undergoing umbilical cord stem cell treatment combined with computer-controlled direct stimulation of detached nerves.

Her research continues to attract funding, but it began from a rehabilitation center significantly funded by former and current professional football players. Consider someone like Kevin Everett, who, after 15 minutes as a quadriplegic ended his football career, has devoted his time and effort toward raising money for spinal cord research.

While the brutality of professional football injuries can be tragic, it does instill in many players a need to campaign for a cure. These are the celebrities that step up and put their weight behind the research.

Re:tl;dr (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008128)

I don't think this kind of research needs a celebrity any more than research into cancer or heart disease does.

Re:tl;dr (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008146)

Then there are summaries like this which throw everything and the kitchen sink in. What's worse, there is only one submitted link, so it's not like there are multiple sources gathered together making this summary long, it's just a lazy submitter cutting and pasting from the article.

I'm not quite sure what your complaint is. It's too long but doesn't include enough sources? The actual article is here [pnas.org] and the free abstract is here [nih.gov] . The article is 6 pages long, and is obviously quite dense. The slashdot summary is more for general audiences, Greg George could have included more material from the original source, but you're already saying tl:dr. Summarizing biomedical research so that everyone can understand it but including all the essential details is frankly something even biology professors rarely achieve.

Growing axons is a nice step, but Christopher Reeves is dead already. It'll be hard to get another celebrity to put their weight behind this kind of research.

And of course, THAT is the critical step, having a good celebrity endosement, that is holding spinal cord repair back. It's a well known fact that scientists won't try anything unless there's a sympathetic celebrity asking them to do it. It's a morale thing, after Mr Reeves died, they just all lost hope, figured there was no point in trying anymore, and became shoe salesmen ~.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006604)

The Jesus Enzyme

Re:Finally (0)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006682)

Yes!!! We're going to finally solve all the problems... of laboratory animals.

Re:Finally (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007332)

What, because nobody in the real world gets affected with spinal cord injuries?

How do we fasttrack this research? (2, Interesting)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006614)

Sounds like this is somethign we should be dumping more "Stimulus Money" into so that we can cure people with traumatic nerve damage, this would save countless millions or billions as people confined to wheelchairs would not need so much fiscal support compared to non paralyzed folks.

If they need human volunteers for trials I don't think they would have any trouble finding any....

You can't. (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006706)

Everyone seems to think that we can just throw more money at this or that disease and we would have a cure, but, we can't. There are only so many scientists, so much equipment today. If you threw more money at it, you'd probably just be buying the original researchers PostDocs a new car apiece, and maybe funding a Phd or two. If you want more scientists today, start by changing culture 20 years ago.

Re:You can't. (2, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006892)

If you want more scientists today, start by changing culture 20 years ago.

I'll get right on that as soon as all the money I've been dumping into time-travel research pays off.

Re:You can't. (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006962)

If you threw more money at it, you'd probably just be buying the original researchers PostDocs a new car apiece, and maybe funding a Phd or two. If you want more scientists today, start by changing culture 20 years ago.

Bull shit.

There are plenty of projects that would yield good results out there, and people to do them, but the money is lacking, so said projects get put on the backburner or scaled down. There may be a point at which dumping more money on research will just be wasted, but we are nowhere close to that point. I look at progenitor cells that eventually make up the spinal cord, we use microscopes that cost a lot of money per hour. Really limits the experiments I can do. Extra money would mean I could look at those cells with different markers, under different conditions. Every time I run one of those experiments, I learn more than I was expecting to about how an embryo makes it's spinal cord. Some of those lessons may be useful to treating diseases of the spinal cord or how to repair injured spinal cords.

To be fair though, some stimulus money has been given out, with some unusual strings attached. And also to be fair, putting "stimulus" money into basic research doesn't seem like a very good way to stimulate the economy in the short term. It's a good long-term investment that does need more money, but stimulus, no. Bottom line though, research could definitely use more money, we're far from saturation, and it would definitely be a better investment than giving it to some fucking bank CEO.

Re:You can't. (1)

drunken_boxer777 (985820) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008706)

Parent is correct, and grandparent is ignorant.

The vast majority of funding in this field goes to equipment and consumables and not salary.

During my PhD research, I looked at progenitor cells in the spinal cord as well. Some of my experiments were only feasible if I could analyze the results using a $500k confocal microscope. If I used a "cheapo" $50k fluorescence microscope I was unable to analyze my results. Even a single experiment could cost thousands of dollars just to run, not counting time spent.

By contrast, my yearly stipend was $25k (in NYC).

Re:You can't. (3, Insightful)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008858)

It is good stimulus funding. You say that you can spend it RIGHT NOW to get more equipment time, etc. That provides an immediate economic benefit right now. It's "shovel ready".

More time on the equipment means that the owner pays it off faster, making it cheaper in the future, and making them more likely to invest in new machinery, both increasing the infrastructure in the field and increasing capability, as the newer scopes probably have better features.

I actually had a hard time thinking about a better use of stimulus funding: It can be spent right now, it will be utilized to create more infrastructure/capability in a growing/emerging field, it will increase our knowledge in that field, and have long term implications for the industrial base in that field thus serving as an excellent long-term investment also. Not to mention the new treatments, etc that can be created further stimulating the economy.

Re:You can't. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006974)

This is just not true. Many researchers at universities are having to cut back severally both in personnel and equipment. They are also are being turned down for tenure which encourages them leaving for the privet sector which does more short-term research. While some stimulus money did go to NIH which immediately approved a bunch of grants, the times have been lean for more than 2 years for researchers. All this did was at best bring many labs back to a functional level, not up to maximum research capacity.

As for the PostDoc cars comment, grad students generally get a stipend of around $22-24K and PostDocs make more but still generally under $45K. And the grants don't boost their stipend, which is a preset amount. Rather, it goes into grant money which is monitored and expenses must be justified. So no, it would go directly into research.

Yes, throwing money at a problem wont necessarily solve it faster, but in the case of many labs it would in fact allow for faster progress.

Disclaimer: I work at a university in a biology lab as a research technician.

Re:You can't. (1)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007682)

They are also are being turned down for tenure which encourages them leaving for the privet sector

On the bright side, they are finding a lot of discarded Scrabble tiles.

WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30012772)

This is just not true. Many researchers at universities are having to cut back severally both in personnel and equipment

How on earth can universities possibly be cutting back on anything? Increases in federal funding for research have been automatic starting with Clinton, through W, and certainly O is going to jack that up. Tuition is probably the only thing skyrocketing faster than medical expenses and its certainly going up faster than energy, and you've got the Feds willing to bankroll loans to essentially subsidize that as well. If you look at endowments, they tend to be doing fairly well, and then, finally, universities get all the IP from any research they do, read, patents, and that licensing money...

And you are saying you don't have enough money? WTF? Where is all this money in the university system going? It doesn't make any sense!!!

Re:WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30014546)

How on earth can universities possibly be cutting back on anything? Increases in federal funding for research have been automatic starting with Clinton, through W, and certainly O is going to jack that up.

Can someone please mod this clown "-1 throwing random bullshit at the wall until something sticks"?

I work in a biomedical research lab. We're very good at what we do, and so we've managed to maintain our funding, with some cuts. But we watched the funding rate for proposals drop precipitously over the last four or five years -- by 2007 or so, the percentage of proposals being funded (overall, not from our lab) had dropped by something like a factor of five.

Tuition is probably the only thing skyrocketing faster than medical expenses and its certainly going up faster than energy, and you've got the Feds willing to bankroll loans to essentially subsidize that as well.

Tuition has nothing to do with research funding.

If you look at endowments, they tend to be doing fairly well

Sure, if you consider "losing 30% of their total worth" to be "doing fairly well". And endowments aren't directly tied to research funding, anyhow -- except that somehow, even though my salary comes exclusively from grants that haven't been cut, I got a wage freeze just like the professors and other staff who are funded from endowments or income. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Re:WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020736)

Can someone please mod this clown "-1 throwing random bullshit at the wall until something sticks"

No random b.s. at all. Just cutting through all of your whining.

I work in a biomedical research lab. We're very good at what we do,

My point is to look at the total outlays and build to consumers, the university system is much, much more expensive than it was decades ago. You are getting a lot more money, overall. NIH is funding way more research, overall. You have more property rights and vehicles to monetize your research, overall. If you are getting your lab cut, go bitch to the university, not to the American people. Academic research is a fiscal priority of a bankrupt country and so anything you are seeing is felt far worse before it even gets to you. Be grateful because you do not know how bad it is elsewhere.

Tuition has nothing to do with research funding.

I'm writing a check to the university. It writes a check to you. So obviously, there is a connection, and you've bought into an overcomplicated story designed to make things easier for university administrators when they chop you. The university has a budget, and its taking a giant amount of money from students. How it pays that money is its decision, alone.

Sure, if you consider "losing 30% of their total worth" to be "doing fairly well".

That's better than most households are doing. The company I work for does not have an endowment, doesn't own a ton of land, and has no little local rents and other monopolies to exploit.

I got a wage freeze just like the professors and other staff who are funded from endowments or income. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

WHINE WHINE WHINE! By some statistics nearly 20% of the United States is unemployed. I just watched a GM plant shutdown and that's thousands of people now do not have a job at all, because people chose to buy foreign cars. Those guys don't have a Phd to fall back on like you do...but they are paying taxes for your university to get gov't grants.

If you are driving a Toyota, I'd say you should shut up about your funding. Maybe if you bought American cars the middle class would have more money to support your research.

Re:You can't. (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007296)

There are many more researchers than there are funds. If anything, we produce too many grad students for the available positions. More money would employ more researchers, and more science would get done.

Re:You can't. (2, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007306)

As long as there are graduate students in school worried about whether they'll have a job when they graduate, I have a feeling that providing additional funding for research is not anywhere near a "point of diminishing returns" scenario.

Also, you comment "there's only so much equipment today" - More/better equipment leads to scientists becoming more productive, in addition to the fact that I don't think there's a shortage of scientists to take advantage of additional funding, the lead time on equipment is far less than the lead time for new scientists (time to go through school as a scientist vs. choosing another career path as an undergraduate). The gating factor towards equipment availability for scientists is NOT availability of equipment to purchase, but of money to purchase that equipment with.

Re:You can't. (2, Interesting)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007348)

you'd probably just be buying the original researchers PostDocs a new car apiece

Actually, that sounds like a pretty good way to encourage more people to study science. Then we'll at least change culture today and have a bunch more scientists 20 years from now.

Re:You can't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30011898)

Post docs with new cars? You have never met a post doc. They have to possess one of the worst work-to-pay ratios in the country.

Ok, but why...? (2, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006620)

"In spinal cord injuries, scar tissue forms and that is the end of the story. Special chemicals form that stop the body's cells from moving in and removing the scar tissue and then allowing the healing process to start."

I'm assuming this is one of those "the body does this beacuse its better in normal circumstances, but in the case of severe trauma it's not so good" kind of things... but can anyone clarify why the body's normal healing process is blocked for spinal injuries?

Re:Ok, but why...? (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006688)

It's an evolutionary advantage for the entire herd when a single injured member is incapacitated, thereby allowing predators to focus on the injured member instead of healthy members of the herd.

So by basically erasing all hope for recovery for the spinal injury victim, Evolution has enabled the non-injured humans a means of escape from lions, tigers, and bears.

Since we live in modern society, it's uncommon to see this kind of pursuit. However, evolutionarily speaking, the movement to cities and civilization is a pretty recent phenomenon. Until that fateful event, humans were preyed upon by many other wild animals.

Re:Ok, but why...? (5, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006918)

It's an evolutionary advantage for the entire herd when a single injured member is incapacitated, thereby allowing predators to focus on the injured member instead of healthy members of the herd.

Not exactly... Its more evolutionary advantageous to the predator that it eats the weakest members of a herd group rather than having to fight the strongest or all of them at once.

As a weakened or injured member does not actually promote or demote the passing on of genes of other members of the herd as predators aren't as able or willing to catch the healthy ones anyways for the risk reward offer.

Ergo, the predator is the one that passes on its genes and techniques to its offspring because it is more likely to survive that way where the heard isn't simply evolved to sacrifice its members.

For example, Elephants will defend their young, injured, elderly, and even corpses from predators and scavengers even though they could spend resources elsewhere. That is more or less an evolved "denial of resources" to its natural predators which in turn makes less of them.

As far as why animals can't regenerate nerve endings, it has to do more or less that most animals that are attacked and injured don't live long enough anyways after the fact to pass on their genes because of persistence of the predator or infection.

Re:Ok, but why...? (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006934)

Elephants will defend their young, injured, elderly, and even corpses from predators and scavengers

They must taste really good. If I tasted really good, I wouldn't want anybody finding out either.

Oh shit—

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008132)

Pesonally, I want it to be well known that certain parts of me taste good.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010470)

C'mon, leave my mom out of this!

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010376)

Not exactly... Its more evolutionary advantageous to the predator that it eats the weakest members of a herd group rather than having to fight the strongest or all of them at once. Whether it's more or less advantageous to the predator is irrelevant. It's the prey's anatomy that has evolved to ensure its survival, and certainly not the survival of its predators.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006948)

What you're saying makes sense, but it doesn't seem to tie in even remotely as to why specifically spine injuries are prevented from healing.

From a more logical perspective, I'd guess that perhaps it's due to the necessity to immobilize the area (thus stop healing, unfortunately), to prevent further damage?

However, I have no idea if that explanation is any more accurate than your own.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30008074)

I think you're closer than they are. My gut says it has more to do with the CNS nerves being encased in a hard shell (skull, spine) for their protection, and that this shell also puts an absolute limit on nerve growth beyond which additional growth would cause damage.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007358)

I disagree with this theory because if it were true than none of your injuries would heal, not just spinal injuries. The body is capable of repairing major damage, broken bones etc, even the brain is capable of routing around damages to some extent. I'm certain there is something specific about the way the nervous system works that has the unfortunate side effect of limiting repairs, not the fact that it is an 'evolutionary advantage' to the herd.

Not only this, but if you look at it from a cost to the heard perspective, if the heard spent all the time and energy caring for the member when it was a child, and it gets a minor injury as an adult, it may make more sense for them to protect it until it gets better instead of starting all over with a new child.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007492)

I actually don't think so, but realize that what follows is purely conjecture. It works this way because the specialization and compartmentalization of the central nervous system is beneficial, without taking into account any sort of help to the herd. It prevents damage such as immune problems as well as making the complex central nervous system more efficient and easier to develop. These sort of advantages don't depend on the organism dying, but actually help avoid that outcome.

Re:Ok, but why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007696)

Do you understand evolution? First, a spinal victim , whether having the ability to repair the spine or not, is not going to heal immediately, so even the spinal victims that might have had spinal regenerative properties would be eaten, so neither healers or none healers will be evolutionarily chosen as they would both die. Secondly, suppose it was a spinal injury that was somewhat severe, but allowed the victim to run/hobble away, before succumbing to the spinal injury, and being somewhat immobilized. Evolution would favor the person that has the healing abilities, as they will be able move on with their life, get food and reproduce, and not be stuck in their cave/dwelling with no food and defense. That would lead us to a present day, were we would probably have the ability to heal our spines.

Your idea doesn't really hold up to the ideas of evolution.

Re:Ok, but why...? (2, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007950)

Pot. Kettle.

Evolution doesn't produce perfect. It produces good enough. If it's good enough for our species to survive that a spinal injury cannot be healed, then there is no pressure to select for that trait. It doesn't enable reproduction at a rate higher than other people. If spinal injuries were common in our species, then there would be pressure. But they aren't, and if they happen you're usually dead anyway, so it isn't a trait that's selected for. Any one person or group who might produce this enzyme doesn't have enough of a better chance to reproduce because of it that it would become common.

Re:Ok, but why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30008446)

It was a hypothetical in response to the GP. I thought that was obvious since we DO NOT currently have spinal healing abilities. I put emphasis on the healing abilities to show the GPs misunderstanding of evolution, as the GP thought that a few unfortunately eaten members might have an affect on evolution. Context yo.

Re:Ok, but why...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30011392)

Except that we do have some healing ability, typically for minor injuries that are not at the level of "immediately paralyzing". People recover from these back and neck injuries all the time, even some that were paralyzed (usually due to pressure on the nerve rather than it being severed completely).

Reality matches the hypothetical reality you put forward ;)

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

fumblebruschi (831320) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007700)

Evolution doesn't work that way, though. Individuals don't evolve to benefit the group, they evolve to benefit themselves. My genes don't give a crap what happens to my neighbors.

I'm only going on what's in TFA, but they seem to be saying that what happens is that when there's severe damage to the spinal cord, the stress causes spinal cord chemicals (which in ordinary spine operation are beneficial) to form a simple aldehyde called acrolein, which is highly toxic, and this prevents healing.

In that case, it just sounds like a tradeoff. "We'll use chemicals A, B, and C in the spinal column. The pro is that they allow higher brain function; the con is that under trauma they go wrong and can't be fixed." Since trauma is by definition an unusual event, that's actually not a bad tradeoff.

I suppose we haven't evolved a way around it because generally people who experience spinal trauma die anyway, so it's not worth devoting a lot of body resources to the problem.

Re: group selection (2, Informative)

mr_overalls (986559) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007722)

This would make sense if genes operated at the group level. They do not. Groups selection is pretty much discredited as a mechanism of evolutionary change. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_selection [wikipedia.org]

Re:Ok, but why...? (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007914)

It's an evolutionary advantage for the entire herd when a single injured member is incapacitated, thereby allowing predators to focus on the injured member instead of healthy members of the herd.

Kin selection, which is what you are invoking here, should generally be the last place you look for evolutionary explanations. It can be important, but it's a second-order effect and is easily incorrectly invoked, as you are doing here.

Kin selection would operate in this case only because "the herd" consists of close relatives of the injured animal. If you consider a kin-group consisting of (injured animal with major spinal cord damage)+(really close relatives), your argument requires that the advantage to (really close relatives) in terms of increased numbers of offspring due to preferential predation on (injured animal with major spinal cord damage) is bigger than the disadvantage to the entire group when one of its members is no longer available for breeding.

The problem is this: it makes no difference to the group which animal gets eaten. If the injured animal could heal, then it would be an un-injured animal, presumably capable of reproducing. So unless you are going to argue that spinal cord injuries that heal are necessarily going to reduce the reproductive fitness of the individual, your argument makes no sense: the question raised was "Why don't they heal?" and your answer amounts to the unsubstantiated claim that "healed animals will have radically lower reproductive fitness."

It is true that injured animals will have radically lowered reproductive fitness, but we're asking, "Why don't they heal given that healed animals would have the same reproductive fitness as any other?"

Saying, "Injured animals have lower reproductive fitness and therefore it is an advantage to their kin group to have them eaten rather than their more fit kin" does nothing to explain why injured animals don't heal and therefore become as reproductively fit as their uninjured kin.

And kin selection leaves out all kinds of solitary animals, like bears, say, that so far as I know have the same problem with non-healing spinal cords as humans.

My personal bet on the evolutionary mechanism behind this is that non-lethal severe spinal cord injuries are sufficiently rare that there just isn't that much evolutionary pressure on healing them, and that scaring, which is a generic mechanism in warm-blooded animals that suppresses regeneration of all kinds, is such a coarse filter that it happened to turn off regeneration in the spine entirely.

In general, cold blooded animals do not scar, but do have some capacity to regenerate, sometimes entire limbs. This works for them because they can effectively shut down for a long periods of time while the healing process takes place. Warm blooded animals have to keep their body temperature up, which means they can't afford the long down-times of cold-bloods, so they have been selected for rapid "field dressing" in the form of scaring, and what we know about the gene pathways suggests that that interferes with regeneration. Lack of regeneration in the spinal nerves could easily be a consequence of that, and like I said: there's probably not much evolutionary pressure on it because how often does an animal get a non-lethal injury that cuts the spinal cord? We see humans with spinal injuries surviving because of medical intervention, but things mentioned in the summary like inflammation, are major killers in untreated spinal injury. That's just speculation, though, and as I hope I've shown above, it's very easy to screw up when trying to reason informally about this stuff.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007940)

It's an evolutionary advantage for the entire herd when a single injured member is incapacitated, thereby allowing predators to focus on the injured member instead of healthy members of the herd.

So by basically erasing all hope for recovery for the spinal injury victim, Evolution has enabled the non-injured humans a means of escape from lions, tigers, and bears.

Since we live in modern society, it's uncommon to see this kind of pursuit. However, evolutionarily speaking, the movement to cities and civilization is a pretty recent phenomenon. Until that fateful event, humans were preyed upon by many other wild animals.

You're correct, but only if that single injured member was impossible to save. Saving lives is also a part of evolutionary effects, as it further aids reproduction chances of the organism. Evolution is the extended arm of relativity, and evolution is solely based on individual vs. environment. Not smart vs. dumb, or ugly vs. beautiful, or strong vs. weak. It cannot be rightfully explained in any other way than that the organism which is best fitted to its environment will have the best chances of reproduction. If being saved is a real possibility then this factor is also included in the equation of evolution.
 
It is true that ultimately drugs (medicine) will end up removing our own built in abilities of coping with reality as those who are born with a complete lack of this mechanism also reproduce with the rest. This is however not to be feared because reality for us now is not what the reality for us was when we were in the jungle. So it would be a real slap in the face to evolution to say that we're "messing" with it, because you'd be so ignorant to think that you can control evolution. It is only a product of reality, it is only a product of relativity. You can't cheat evolution.
 
It all comes down to two opposing theories, fate vs. free will. It is very controversial to say that there is such a thing as fate, as it is usually associated with nonsensical TV-shows about anything from clarvoyants to fundamentalists (e.g. doomsday). However it seems that we tend to wish for the absence of fate and that we are in control of ourselves and our lives -- but then one has to question if this doesn't cloud our judgement of the truth. There is also the argument that if fate is "proven" then we would all just lie down and wait for death. The problem with this argument is that once again one makes the fatal assumption that all humans would be susceptible to this and that all humans would embrace it -- but without pointing any fingers I think we can conclude that even if you present the hardest evidence -- there are still many people who would deny it. This would then be another product of fate, that in return coexists with our existance, rather than our annihilation.
 
I think this is an effect of relativity and the fact that many people don't tend to accept proof of what they, with all their hearts, wish for is untrue further also becomes an effect of fate. What I'm trying to say is that even if fate is proven to exist, it wouldn't make a difference, as those who accept it and go down with it will die, those who accept yet ignore it and those who won't accept it will live on. And in evolutionary terms this would then lead to offspring less likely to go down with this "truth". Perhaps genetic, perhaps due to "alternative education." We would never accept murder or rape or genocide as an inevitable effect of the universe. If we do that, we're no longer what we consider human. We would be equal rocks, or water, the sun, or the moon. Peers with our futures written on our foreheads.
 
Then again -- as the uncertainty principle shows us -- we can never be sure of this. And if you think about it -- this is deeply rooted in our very definition of life itself -- uncertainty.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010186)

Such a poor understanding of evolution..sigh.

Evolution is not a tree, and it does not have a goal., It's doesn't make decisions about 'erasing' things.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010456)

So by basically erasing all hope for recovery for the spinal injury victim, Evolution has enabled the non-injured humans a means of escape from lions, tigers, and bears. Since we live in modern society, it's uncommon to see this kind of pursuit.

Actually there is a similar circumstance with an opposite effect - bankruptcy. When a modern human becomes insolvent and declares bankruptcy, its predators are prevented from finishing him/her off, instead they must resort to attacking the not-so-weak middle class. Look how that's worked out...

I say we strap 10lbs of C4 to those who have gone bankrupt and use them as human torpedoes against the banks.

(j/k, I have nothing but sympathy for those who've hit rock bottom)

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006994)

Well, kick me if I'm wrong because I'm just learning about this stuff, but I would imagine it has something to due with the fact that the Central Nervous System has its own brand of Macrophages(cell destroying cells) called microglia. This is beneficial because you don't want some crazy regular immune cell going into the CNS and going rambo. I would imagine that the unique histology of the CNS is what causes this difference in the Spinal Cord. I'm certainly open for correction by someone who knows, however.

Re:Ok, but why...? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007630)

I'm assuming this is one of those "the body does this beacuse its better in normal circumstances, but in the case of severe trauma it's not so good" kind of things... but can anyone clarify why the body's normal healing process is blocked for spinal injuries?

There's theory [discovermagazine.com] going around that our immune system is at fault for a lot of problems, possibly including this one. Basically your immune response has evolved to be so aggressive that it causes collateral damage to your own cells, like the scene in Team America when they blow up the Louvre in order to save Paris from the terrorist.

This is great for keeping you alive long enough to breed if you live in the wild without sanitation but sucks if you don't want your body to fall apart when you get older.

Re:Ok, but why...? (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007888)

can anyone clarify why the body's normal healing process is blocked for spinal injuries?

Because until recent times, and with any wild animal, a spinal injury is a death sentence. No way to evolve past it.

Very limited potential (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006640)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is a great breakthrough and it provides a new understanding and all that. But fundamentally these kind of enzymes and stuff coax the body into healing itself and so their effectiveness is quite limited. Better to go with bio-interfaced electronics. I once saw a documentary where this guy was almost totally burnt in a volcano. The scientists were able to replace all the lost limbs with mechanical, cornea and trachea with mechanical components, a black helmet and a black cape and he was almost as good as new. Cool thing was, though he was modded so heavily, he still had enough mitachloreans and retained almost all the Force he had to begin with. Amazing. I tell you.

Re:Very limited potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007002)

I remember seeing that on TV. I think it was the discovery channel.

Modern medicine is amazing!

Evolutionary Advantage? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006874)

What possible evolutionary advantage could come from the body interfering with its own nerves regenerating the way the rest of its tissues regenerate?

Re:Evolutionary Advantage? (2, Informative)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007266)

The Central Nervous system has its own types of cells called glial cells that are very specialized. These cells provide everything from an immune response to creating a framework for growing neurons. This is advantageous because one of the first structures to develop in an embryo is the central nervous system and having an enclosed environment keeps the CNS from having to deal with a lot of the problems that the other environments of the body have to deal with. It is really a pretty amazing system, you should check it out.

Re:Evolutionary Advantage? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007664)

I know, but why does that separate system actively suppress regeneration? I don't see what environment factor selected for that trait to succeed and perpetuate. What evolutionary advantage does the suppression trait give?

Re:Evolutionary Advantage? (2, Interesting)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007680)

Yes, it completely divorces the immune system from the central nervous system. Capillaries go into the CNS, but you don't have things like white blood cells in there. This prevents a few things, normal body cells from destroying CNS cells for example. An immune cell destroying nerve cells would be very bad.

Re:Evolutionary Advantage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007408)

You could argue that from an evolutionary point of view, once a nerve canal was damaged there's really no point in trying to heal any further, since by the time you do you've probably got gangreen or necrosis setting in, if you were relying on pristine healing to reconnect you to the various systems in the body, as opposed to quickly forming scar tissue, which unfortunately doesn't include nerves.

Then again from an evolutionary point of view, threesomes would be the norm and monogamy is a dead end.
You try explaining that to my girlfriend.

from a practical point of view, cos nerve cells tend to be fairly lengthy in structure it seems that sheer duplication isn't enough for replication. the same detriment affects muscle cells btw, so if you slice a muscle, you get scar tissue, which both ends of the healed muscle attaches to. Hence the importance of decent stitching.

My point is that in modern man, evolution is relatively irrelevant when you've got modern medicine. Not to mention social issues, which account for the chronic lack of threesomes.

In the next 50 years there will be more advances from pharmacology, regenerative medicine, and gene therapy than there would be in several thousand years of evolution.

Re:Evolutionary Advantage? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007588)

But we evolved muscles and all the other tissues that regenerate. I don't see why nerves coming with an active system to interfere with their regeneration would give an evolutionary advantage that would conduct that trait into dominance in our species, or in vertebrates in general. I don't see how suppressing one's own nerve regeneration makes one any more likely to reproduce than just letting regeneration happen would. Indeed, the opposite seems true, as for any tissue, yet evidently evolution selected for suppression.

As for threesomes (and moresomes), they were indeed the norm, as favored by evolution, though probably not in the ratio you prefer with your girlfriend. Monogamy brought other advantages fairly recently, once human evolution proceeded in a context where social advantages could outweigh forces of nature. Of course humans will achieve benefits through actual "intelligent design" of our own survival than did the unguided evolution that brought us here. But I'm interested in how the former boss of our fate gave us this counterintuitive set of traits.

First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006878)

It'd be nice if I didn't have to go to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] to find out.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30006992)

And what the hell is a researcher? And what the hell is an enzyme? Why not define those in the summary too?

You lazy twit. Instead of expecting every god-damned word to be defined for you in the summary, why not do what people have been doing for ages... look the word up in a dictionary or encyclopedia.

Fucking lazy piece of shit. Why should the people who know what an axon is have to wade through wasteful definitions in the summary.

Seriously... lazy pieces of goat ass-hair like yourself are one of the reasons our whole fucking culture is dumb.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007014)

Great, apparently you knew what it is. Probably 95% of the people on here don't.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007190)

For failure to know a cool 4 letter word with an X in it you are required to hand in your geek license.

Seriously though, in The Netherlands this is standard highschool biology...

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007364)

Hell, I might have learned it in high school, but that was a long time ago.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007436)

Then go back to digg. This is a site for nerds, read the tagline you brain dead fucker.

"I learned it in high school, and promptly forgot" is the problem with modern culture, it's fucking cool to be a damn idiot.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007490)

Holy shit, you're calling me a "brain dead fucker" because I don't remember every detail of the nervous system that I probably learned ten years ago?

I do think I've just found myself another foe. Congrats, it's a hard group to break into.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30009032)

wow dude, I just had to post to say I dont think your question was unwarranted, nor do I think the flames were necessary at all.

Its not like you didn't look up the information youself, and then post a helpful link for the rest of us.

Seriously, whats up with all the hate? Yeah its news for nerds but no one is an expert in every damn field of nerdliness...

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30009208)

No kidding. Thanks for the voice of support.

Like I said, it takes a pretty hefty dose of idiot to get onto my foe list. It's only 4 people short and half of them are spam-bots.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30011900)

PS, I wish you hadn't posted anonymously. I think I'd friend you for that.

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007246)

I'd hope more than 95% of people on a geek website would know at least some of the basic components of nerves...

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007210)

Humerously enough, I think Axon is used incorrectly. I do believe they wish to create entire new cells, not just axons(though axons make up the majority of the spinal cord and they are quite long).

Re:First response: What the hell is an "axon"? (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007948)

Keep learning, an axon is the wiring between the brain cells, its a cord of tissue that grow out of nerve cells in as many as thousands, each one transfers nerve signal, by electrochemical gradients of potassium, sodium and calcium ions. The new enzyme is real breakthrough, by inject it in the required location in the body, we could reconnect broken nerves or incourage learning in the brain.

---

Neuroscience [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Flesh is a design flaw (1)

the-bobcat (1360969) | more than 4 years ago | (#30006976)

Albeit this kind of goes against the Axon's motto...

Just the help I need now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007044)

...since this story caused me to poor hot grits down my pants.

Sounds so simple, almost as simple as a do-re-mi. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007072)

chABC, Its easy as
1 2 3, as simple as
do re mi, chABC, 1 2 3
baby you and me girl

OWWW.

Re:Sounds so simple, almost as simple as a do-re-m (2, Funny)

grantek (979387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010522)

No, you have to:
sudo chABC -R /lib/modules/*
sudo mkinitnerves --all --spinal
then reboot

This is why neuroscience just isn't ready for the masses

Link to Scientific Article (5, Informative)

structural_biologist (1122693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007152)

Here's the actual research paper being cited:

Lee H, McKeon RJ, Bellamkonda RV. Sustained delivery of thermostabilized chABC enhances axonal sprouting and functional recovery after spina chord injury. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2009. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905437106 [doi.org] .

The summary is slightly incorrect in saying that this group discovered that the chondroitinase enzyme can aid in recovery after spinal cord injury (this has been known for a while, see Bradbury et al. (2002) Nature 416:636–640, whom the authors cite). The authors contribution is to engineer a version of the enzyme that is more stable and works better than the natural version of the enzyme. Because the enzyme is more stable than the natural enzyme, the authors can implant a hydrogel at the site of injury that slowly releases the enzyme over the course of two weeks. The authors show that this sustained delivery improves neuron regrowth and the locomotor function of the injured animals compared to just a single dose of the natural enzyme (which degrades relatively quickly after injection).

Re:Link to Scientific Article (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007222)

Cool business.

Diabetic Neuropathy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30007494)

It would be nice if this approach can be used to treat diabetic neuropathy. Have the scientists looked at that?

Scar reduction (1)

sshore (50665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30007518)

The business about regenerating nerves is exciting, but this also sounds useful for scar reduction/removal.

I have a couple of keloid scars [wikipedia.org] that it would be nice to be rid of.

Nobody will remember this in one year. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30009538)

I hereby state that this discovery will have totally disappeared down the medical memory hole in a year. There's just not enough money in this vs the money involved in continuing care of the paralyzed and disabled.

what about cosmetic (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010006)

I wonder if this would also apply to skin? Think about burn victims, mauling victims, organ recipients, intersexed individuals - all of whom often end up with disfiguring and/or painful scars (scars are relatively inelastic). Could this kind of treatment be used to encourage skin to regenerate properly and prevent scars, or even have old scars removed, being replaced with nice smooth elastic skin? Wouldn't it be great if children who are burn victims don't have to be taunted about facial scars?

Who knows, maybe even Wacko Jacko's nose could have been fixed? ;)

Scar Tissue (1)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30010044)

In typical injuries, scar tissue forms around the damage point and the body removes the tissue so that new muscle and nerves can regrow in the damaged area.

I have a scar on my pinky finger that has degraded my guitar skills because the scar tissue will not go away, which means the nerves are getting blocked and part of the finger is numb. And no, this is not attached to my spine.

I Think I Know of Two People Who Could Benefit (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30012588)

Special Ed, and his best friend. [youtube.com] Both victims of Drain Bamage.
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