Northwestern University Researchers Restore Mobility in Paralyzed Mice with Severe Spinal Cord Injury 

Spinal cord injuries are one of the principal leading causes of paralysis of the limbs. This is so because the central nervous system (CNS) which comprises the brain and the spinal cord doesn’t have the ability to repair itself after major trauma as well as neurodegenerative diseases and stroke. Neurons are specialized cells responsible for transmitting nerve impulses and any damage to these cells could lead to complete paralysis of the limbs. unlike some natural regenerating appendages and organs, the central nervous system has evolved to be so specialized that it lacks the ability of regrowth in response to injury.

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What was done?

In the recent breakthrough study, conducted by some researchers at Northwestern University, the ‘dancing molecules’ gel was discovered which after a single administration, regenerated the neurons of a paralyzed mouse that walked again after 4 weeks. These ‘dancing molecules’ are two linearly oriented peptides, stored in a tiny droplet of very cold helium at absolute zero temperature.

According to the lead author, the repair of this paralysis occurs in 4 major steps:

  1. Axons which are threadlike parts of nerve cells get revitalized.
  2.  There is a significant reduction of scar tissues which could pose a physical barrier to regeneration.
  3. Myelin, the insulating layer around the axon, gets restored.
  4. Blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the site of injury get upregulated

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The team led by Stupp concluded that the treatment works because of the cascading signals triggered by the “dancing molecules” peptides. The first revitalized axons while the second was responsible for reversing the scarring of tissue, blood vessels, and increased myelin production. These peptides stay much longer to do their work and are more effective. This is because their vibrating nature helps them keep up with the shifting configuration of neuronal receptors. This therapy employs a liquid gel which when injected into a nanofibre structure impersonates the extracellular matrix’s and as such these synthetic materials are able to send signals to receptors as well as communicate with cells.

After the action, the gel disintegrates in about 12 weeks.

With the full knowledge of proteins having very short half-lives and being expensive to produce, this research work hits its target of making available economical and better-lasting therapy. The presenting author of the study, Samuel Stupp noted that the principal and ground-breaking innovation in the research was the control of the collective motion of more than 100,000 molecules within a nanofibre. By making these molecules move, ‘dance’ or leap continually, they were able to connect more effectively with the neuronal receptors.

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Clinical Significance

This study was conducted on mice but the potency in treatment shows great promise for human models. Here we have a potential cure that not only is effective but takes itself out after the job is done.

Difficulty in walking, paraplegias as well as complete paralysis of the limbs after major trauma would cease to be a problem. Transverse myelitis, polio, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases could have their management transformed by these dancing molecules


Nanotechnology is the gift that keeps on giving. Our increasing ability to make therapeutic decisions on a microscopic level may be one of the greatest advances of the past decade.

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Bioactive scaffolds with enhanced supramolecular motion promote recovery from spinal cord injury

Self-Assembling Multidomain Peptide Nanofibers for Delivery of Bioactive Molecules and Tissue Regeneration – PubMed (





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