Research Highlight

Small molecule helps regenerate spinal cord after injury

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.45 Published online 10 April 2019

Researchers have discovered that a small molecule could boost a molecular pathway that paves the regeneration of specific neuronal axons, slender fibres that transmit electrical impulses to and from other neurons, after spinal cord injury in rodents. 

This finding shows that it may be possible to improve recovery in patients with spinal cord injuries.

To understand the underlying mechanism of axon regeneration after spinal cord injury, an international research team, including a scientist from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India, induced injury to rodents’ spinal cord and exposed them to different environmental conditions.

They found that the animals that were kept in larger cages and exposed to a running wheel recovered better than the animals housed in a standard environment.

The researchers identified a protein called Creb (cyclic adenosine monophosphate–response element–binding protein)–binding protein (Cbp) as playing a vital role in regenerating the axons. This protein activates a number of molecular pathways that are involved in gene expression, neuronal activity, axonal projection and cytoskeleton remodeling.   

They further found that a small molecule boosted the activity of the protein in rodents with spinal cord injury. The rodents treated with the small molecule performed well by decreasing the number of hind limb slips in a grid test. These animals also quickly sensed and then removed a piece of adhesive tape stuck on their hind paws.  

The researchers say that further studies are needed to fully evaluate the toxicity profile of the small compound before it could be used in a clinical set-up.


1. Hutson, T. H. et al.  Cbp-dependent histone acetylation mediates axon regeneration induced by environmental enrichment in rodent spinal cord injury models.  Sci. Transl. Med. 11, eaaw2064 (2019)