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A Breakthrough in Cleveland Marks a Major Step Forward in Treating Spinal Cord Injuries

Jerry Silver, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, says a peptide discovered in his lab is the first to promote nerve regeneration.

A researcher at Case Western Reserve University discovered a new treatment for spinal cord injuries that may allow nerves to regrow and perhaps restore lost movement to paralyzed people.

The breakthrough comes after a three-decade search.

It was once thought that damaged nerve cells could never regrow, but Jerry Silver, who is a distinguished professor in neuroscience, never bought into that.

He has spent his career at Case looking for the key to unlock nerve regeneration, and he thinks he’s found it in the form of a tiny protein called Intracellular Sigma Peptide.

For the first time, he said, damaged nerves have been made to reconnect, "and they just keep on going like little Eveready Energizer bunnies."

“It’s very safe, incredibly effective, has a huge effect in the animals," Silver said.

He believes it’s time to take the discovery to the next phase: human testing.

“The results are so robust, the recovery is so profound that it led investors to license the peptide to bring the discovery to people,” he said.

According to Silver, the breakthrough led to a new commercial venture. The startup NervGen Pharma is planning to use the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s fast-track program to streamline clinical trials of the peptide, which are scheduled to begin in 2020.