Epigenetic treatment improves spinal cord regeneration in mice after severe injury

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

September 20, 2022 -- Weekly treatments with an epigenetic activator resulted in the regrowth of sensory and motor neurons in the spinal cord when given to mice 12 weeks after severe injury, according to a study published September 20 in the journal PLOS Biology.

Researchers, led by Simone Di Giovanni, PhD, chair in restorative neuroscience at Imperial College London, tested a small molecule called TTK21 -- which changes the epigenetic state of genes by activating the CBP/p300 family of co-activator proteins -- in a mouse model of severe spinal cord injury. After TTK21 treatment, gene activation led to more axon growth, regenerative signaling, and synaptic plasticity compared with control treatment.

While spinal cord injury (SCI) does not have any effective treatments currently, the researchers conclude that their work "provides direct evidence that clinically suitable pharmacological CBP/p300 activation can promote the expression of regeneration-associated genes and axonal growth in a chronic SCI with severe neurological disability."

Di Giovanni said in a statement that TTK21 administered systemically once per week after chronic SCI in animals "can promote neuronal regrowth and an increase in synapses that are needed for neuronal transmission" and that researchers are "now exploring the combination of this drug with strategies that bridge the spinal cord gap such as biomaterials as possible avenues to improve disability in SCI patients."

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