Zebrafish Can Regenerate Their Spinal Cords, What about People?

Nerves surround every part of our body like a web and enable us to obtain and interpret information about the world around us. They can be considered as the highways carrying information throughout the body. The most important organs of this system are the brain and spinal cord and the electric impulses regarding every emotion, thought and knowledge in our brain reaches our organs via the spinal cord. The spinal cord is also the center of the reflexes, which are vital for our survival. Reflexes triggered in the event of a danger effectively protect us from threats. With these features, the spinal cord can be compared to a very large data control center that is protected by high security systems. 

Disk-shaped vertebrae surround the spinal cord and when the cord is bent, these bones protect it from impacts and move without harming the spinal cord. Furthermore, the spinal cord is encased by three layers of membrane as in the brain, between which is cerebrospinal fluid that protects spinal cord from shock and pressure change.  Despite these intricate protection systems in place to guard the spine, a faulty move or an accident may still cause damage to the spinal cord.  Despite the advanced technology of the 21st Century, such injuries cannot be adequately treated.  The spinal cord is one of the organs that is almost impossible to cure after an injury.

As a result, the part of the body controlled by the nerves in the injured part of the spinal cord will no longer function properly. In severe injuries, fully paralysis might occur. Scientists have been working for years to develop a method that can treat spinal cord injuries. And they found the answer to the question not in medical literature, but in a tiny creature known as the zebrafish. 

This small   fish, about four or five centimeters long, offers an astonishing miracle of creation.

When the spinal cord of the zebrafish is struck, glial cells build a bridge across the severed tissues of the spinal cord. These cells form extensions ten times longer than themselves and build connection roads to bridge the gaps caused by the injury. It will take eight weeks to fill the gap with new nerve tissues. 

Interestingly, even though the human body also has glial cells, such a repair process does not occur in the human body. The scientists who examined this miraculous process of regeneration in the zebrafish found that the answer was hidden in a protein called CTGF or "connective tissue growth factor". Researchers observed that during the regeneration process, twelve genes, seven of which were protein-producing, were strongly activated. They also observed a rapid increase in CTGF protein in glial cells within two weeks after injury.

The human CTGF protein is nearly 90% similar to that of the zebrafish. Even more interestingly, when scientists injected  human CTGF in to a zebrafish, they observed that the spinal cord could still be regenerated. However, when the spinal cord of a human is injured, it is impossible to repair the spinal cord despite the presence of this protein.

Scientists are determined to further study this small creature to understand how to treat spinal cord injuries in humans. God could have created this amazing repair system in humans if He had wished so. However, despite all of our technological advancement, no such treatment is yet available for humans. At the moment, let alone treating such injuries, it is not even fully clear how the zebrafish is able to perform this repair. All the studies done so far reveal the superiority and finesse in God's art of creation and it is our responsibility to reflect on this wonderful features that God created in this small animal and appreciate Almighty God’s greatness.

He is God– the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surah Al-Hashr, 24)




2017-04-18 22:59:36

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