Nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord have been shown to be capable of some degree of self-repair, but this repair is usually limited by substances in the neural tissue that limit regeneration and plasticity of connections.
Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs), a component of the scar matrix that forms after injury, are among the most potent inhibitors of plasticity. Their normal role in the brain and spinal cord also includes the restriction of changes in connectivity between nerve cells. Acorda is studying the effects of chondroitinase, a bacterial enzyme that has been shown to inactivate CSPG inhibition of neural plasticity and regeneration, to improve motor and sensory function following SCI. Published preclinical studies from six independent laboratories have demonstrated that the application of chondroitinase resulted in improved recovery of function following injuries to various areas of the brain or spinal cord. These functions included walking, forelimb grasping, sensation, binocular vision and bladder control.
Acorda is currently exploring several members of the chondroitinase family in preclinical studies of SCI. Chondroitinase may have other applications in conditions where nervous system plasticity and recovery from injury is limited.