Spinal cord injuries, when not fatal, can leave humans and animals paralyzed. That’s because all-important nerve fibers often cannot grow back once severed. Now German researchers have engineered a designer protein to fix the previously thought unfixable.
God created the human body to operate by signals carried from the brain through a complex web of nerve fibers. Nerves transmit information between muscles and the brain. Brain and spinal cord injuries—often caused by sports or traffic accidents—can damage those fibers. Before now, researchers have considered severely damaged nerves irreversible in mammals.
During His time on Earth, Jesus made the lame walk. When He healed the paralyzed man lowered from a rooftop, He did so by simply saying, “Take your mat and go home.” (Luke 5:17-26)
Humans don’t have that power. But God did give humans the ability to research and experiment. He gave them curiosity and persistence. Now humans may have finally found a way to heal paralysis with so-called “designer proteins.” Scientists engineer these protein molecules in a lab for treating disease. In an experiment, they’ve re-established a neural (nerve) link and helped mice paralyzed after spinal cord injuries walk again.
A team at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany stimulated paralyzed nerve cells in lab mice. The researchers injected a designer protein into the brains of mice whose spinal cords had complete cross-sectional severing. This treatment placed genetic information carriers inside the brains. The carriers “told” the brains to produce another protein called hyper-interleukin-6, according to the university’s website. The injured nerves grew. They restored themselves to health and function.
The rodents surprised team leader Dietmar Fischer. After two or three weeks of treatment, the paralyzed mice started walking. “We didn’t expect that,” he says.
Fischer says that “with a relatively small intervention, we stimulate a very large number of nerves to regenerate.” He believes this is why the rodents can walk again.
Fischer’s team is currently studying whether the treatment can be improved. The group is cautiously optimistic however. “Results or treatments that you develop in mice can normally not one-to-one transfer to human beings,” Fischer says. “We also have to see if our method works on larger mammals.”
He mentions dogs, pigs, and monkeys as examples. “Then, if it works there, we would have to make sure that the therapy is safe for humans. But that,” Fischer warns, “will certainly take many, many years”—unlike an all-powerful spoken word from the Creator.