A New microRNA Target for Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

An article published in Experimental Biology and Medicine (Volume 246, Issue 11, June 2021) describes a new target for treating spinal cord injuries. The study, led by Dr. Chunfang Wang, in the Shanxi Key Laboratory of Animal and Animal Model of Human Diseases at Shanxi Medical University in Taiyuan (China), reports that modulating the expression of a specific microRNA improves motor function in a mouse model of spinal cord injury.   
Damage to the spinal cord results in changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury. Restoring motor function is a key factor in managing spinal cord injury. Injection of neural stems has been shown to be effective, but the availability of neural cells is limited by ethical and practical issues. Another option is stimulating the proliferation of undifferentiated neural stem cells present in the spinal cord. microRNAs are endogenous non-coding small molecule RNAs that regulate the expression of target genes. Several microRNAs, including miR-31, have been implicated in nervous system function and development. miR-31 levels are elevated in neural stem cells but not in motor neurons, suggesting that it may regulate neuronal stem cell proliferation. 
In the current study, Dr. Wang and colleagues examined the effects of miR-31 expression on neuronal stem cells in a transgenic zebrafish model and a mouse model of spinal injury. Deletion of miR-31 impaired nervous system development in a zebrafish model. In vitro treatment of mouse neuronal stem cells with miR-31 upregulated Notch signaling and G1 cell cycle entry. Finally, injection of miR-31 at the site of injury promoted motor function recovery in a mouse model of spinal cord injury. Collectively, these results demonstrate that miR-31 plays a key regulatory role in neural development and promotes the neural repair. Dr. Wang said “Diseases of the nervous system have not been treated effectively because neuronal cells are unable to proliferate. Regulating the proliferation of endogenous neural stem cells through modulation of miR-31 represents a new method for the treating nervous system disorders.”
Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology & Medicine, said “Dr. Wang and colleagues have provided elegant studies demonstrating that increasing miR-31 expression in a mouse model of spinal cord injury (SCI) can restore motor functions. This is an important contribution towards the development of new SCI therapies.”
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Source: Experimental Biology and Medicine