Nerve regeneration: Improving the quality of life | Action Medical Research

Nerve regeneration: Improving the quality of life

30 January 2001
London researchers are hoping to make important medical strides in helping patients recover from traumatic nerve injuries. Leading medical research charity, Action Research, has committed more than £125,000 to experts in London, who aim to improve nerve regeneration - a complex and difficult human process. Traumatic injury to nerves is a common and potentially devastating condition affecting all age groups from infants to the elderly. For example, those who have been in motorcycle and car accidents, sustained injuries in the workplace, and sadly, victims of stabbing incidents. The nerves of war casualties can also be damaged due to shrapnel and bullet wounds. Although very different circumstances, all these injuries can cause long term disability problems, and can dramatically worsen an individual’s quality of life. Dr Gary Coulton, of the Department of Biochemistry and Immunology at St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London, says: ‘Depending on the severity and site of injury, most severe injuries heal very poorly with very extensive disability and patients do not return to normal working and social lives. The impact on their families is also great.’ Dr Coulton explains that following nerve injury, the body often experiences difficulty re-growing nerves and re-establishing connection with the muscles. This can cause muscle wasting and weakness. He adds: ‘The aim of the project is to improve nerve regeneration in order to reduce the time that a muscle is without nerve support, which avoids the muscle tissues wasting away.’ Action Research, which is dedicated to overcoming disease and disability and approaching its 50th anniversary, has awarded a three-year project to experts at St. George’s Hospital Medical School, in conjunction with Dr. Giorgio Terenghi, director of the Blond McIndoe Centre, at the Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London. The team will test the affect of applying growth factors - small proteins that promote survival and regeneration of nerve cells - to damaged nerves, and identify those factors which appear to act specifically on weight bearing muscles and their nerve cells. Dr Coulton adds: ‘Identification of these factors will be both a fundamental biological discovery and a crucial step forward in the development of surgical therapies.’ Action Research, which is approaching its 50th anniversary, has already committed thousands of pounds to other projects investigating nerve injury. One current study in Liverpool is looking at pain reduction, whereas another grant in Leeds is focused on nerve repair in infants who have suffered nerve damage caused by difficult deliveries. Action Research launched its Touching Lives Campaign in early 2000, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. Visit the website at For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email
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