By: 17 August 2015
Electrical signals could help repair injured spinal cords

Electrical signals could help repair injured spinal cords

A professor at Wichita State University is taking a special approach to the study of spinal cord injuries through research that uses an electrical signal to repair tissue damage.

Following neurological damage to the spinal cord, Schwann cells migrate to the injury site and help myelinate nerve axons where the injury has occurred, promoting the recovery of some of the spinal cord’s function.

Li Yao, a biological sciences assistant professor at Wichita, is studying how electrical signals can aim those cells directly to the injury site. His research, he hopes, will open new doors for the medical field to use electrical fields in the treatment of neural injuries.

Yao’s research studies the molecular mechanism of cell migration in electric fields using next-generation RNA sequencing to look at the signalling pathways that regulate cell migration. So far, he has discovered that the precision of the cell migration toward the injury increased significantly as the strength of the electrical field increased. The electrical field did not, however, change the speed at which the cells moved.

These early findings suggest that the use of electrical fields in cell migration could become a burgeoning area of study in regenerative medicine.

“Our work has implications for central nervous system repair, and the application of an electrical field may assist with that,” said Yao.