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For many years it was assumed that spinal cord regeneration was not possible. Paralysis, often resulting from damaged spinal cords, was likely to be permanent, and many peoples’ lives were forever altered by a spinal cord injury. This is still the case today, but what has changed is the degree of optimism many people hold about someday being able to use medical techniques to fix spinal cord injuries and restart the damaged nerves that have lost function after an injury has occurred.
It’s doubtful that a single researched element will provide the cure to spinal cord regeneration, and that what really will happen is that shared evidence from lots of research trials may ultimately point the way toward what needs to done. This may yet take a while, though all are joined in the hope of doctors figuring this out sooner rather than later. It’s important to note that even though optimism exists, unless miraculous events occur, chances are that people may need to wait, and potentially a cure may not exist for people whose injuries have occurred some time ago.
The studies, which everybody points to as potentially encouraging in spinal cord regeneration medicine, include those that have brought forth the importance of the axon. This is a small section of each neuron that has to communicate with other neurons in order for full function of the nerve cells to remain. Scientists now know that at least part of the problem with the damaged spinal cord is that axons have been damaged.
Another promising study occurred at USCF in recent years, and suggested that the area of damage was not the only area of concern. By stimulating nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system, researchers were able to stimulate new growth of neurons in the central nervous system and the spinal cord. This study was on mice, and has not been duplicated in humans, but it has been most important because it now proves spinal cord regeneration is possible.
As much as it’s important to understand how to repair something, it may also be necessary to understand why it won’t work. In the late 2000s, one study that may be used medically in future evaluated the blood clotting protein fibrinogen. It was found in people with damaged spinal cords that this protein was present in highly excessive amounts, and that it may be inhibiting the repair of neurons. There are ways to block the protein’s action and these might be indicated in future treatment.
These studies are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many that are still being conducted. Medical science continues to work hard on the issue of spinal cord regeneration, exploring the problem from a variety of angles. It can only be hoped that their discoveries bear fruit soon, and that the human race may soon benefit from recovery of injuries that were once thought incurable.