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What's new in October 2020

Healing spinal cord injuries without scars

Nerves reconnecting after spinal cord injury.
After spinal cord injury, the resulting scar tissue prevents nerve cells from reconnecting and hinders recovery. In a new study led by HSCI Principal Faculty member Zhigang He, researchers have demonstrated a way to minimize scar formation and accelerate repair in adult mice after a spinal cord injury.
  • What they did: The researchers studied spinal cord injury and repair responses in two-day-old mice.
  • What they found: Microglia, a type of immune cell found in the brain and spinal cord, had an important protective role in scar-free wound repair. The cells helped form bridges between severed axon ends, and produced molecules that interfered with harmful proteins. By transplanting microglia from newborn mice into adult mice with spinal cord lesions, healing significantly improved.
  • Why it matters: These findings can help researchers develop strategies for scar-free healing as well as treating neurodegenerative conditions.

Reviving cells after a heart attack

Heart-on-a-chip treated with EVs.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nanometer-sized packages that travel between cells to deliver cues and cargo. Researchers led by HSCI Principal Faculty member Kit Parker have shown how EVs help heart cells recover after a heart attack.
  • What they did: The researchers used EVs derived from blood vessel cells, which are good at sensing stress under the low oxygen conditions that occur during a heart attack.
  • What they found: The EVs contained almost 2,000 proteins that help cells respond to stress. The researchers tested the EVs on a heart-on-a-chip model, and found they could not only revive cells after a heart attack, but also keep cells functioning during a heart attack.
  • Why it matters: EVs are a promising treatment approach for conditions where a single drug is not effective – not only in the case of heart attacks, but also autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and tissue injury.

HSCI scientists receive awards across research areas

HSCI scientists have received awards across a wide range of disease areas to advance their innovative research:
  • Principal Faculty member Vikram Khurana has received three awards to advance his research on Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. He is a winner of the Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition, and has received grants from Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s and the National Institutes of Health.
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