The enzyme chondroitinase seems to have a beneficial effect on nerve damage. Plasticity, which allows the brain to make new connections after old ones are damaged, is crucial for recovery after a brain or spine injury, and scar tissue can interfere with this process.
A team of researchers from the Centre for Brain Repair in Cambridge studied the use of this enzyme that is used by bacteria in order to invade cells on rats with spinal cord injuries. Chondriotinase goes after the molecules (chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans) that create the scar tissue that blocks the formation of new nerve connections.
Used alone, chondriotinase had little benefit to the lab rats, but when combined with rehabilitation, there was a significant improvement. “The discovery opens up the possibility that rehabilitation for neurological conditions can be made much faster and more effective by giving treatment such as chondroitinase to make the nervous system plastic,” said lead researchers Professor James Fawcett and Dr. Guillermo Garcia-Alias.
According to Dr. Mark Bacon with Spinal Research, the next step will be figuring out how to administer this “bacterial protein” in a safe manner to humans with spinal cord injuries.