Nerve regeneration is possible in spinal cord injuries

A team of scientists at UCSF has made a critical discovery that may help in the development of techniques to promote functional recovery after a spinal cord injury. By stimulating nerve cells in laboratory rats at the time of the injury and then again one week later, the scientists were able to increase the growth capacity of nerve cells and to sustain that capacity. Both factors are critical for nerve regeneration.

The study, reported in the November 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on earlier findings in which the researchers were able to induce cell growth by manipulating the nervous system before a spinal cord injury, but not after.

Key to the research is an important difference in the properties of the nerve fibers of the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord, and those of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is the network of nerve fibers that extends throughout the body.

Nerve cells normally grow when they are young and stop when they are mature. When an injury occurs in CNS cells, the cells are unable to regenerate on their own. In PNS cells, however, an injury can stimulate the cells to regrow. PNS nerve regeneration makes it possible for severed limbs to be surgically reattached to the body and continue to grow and regain function.

Regeneration occurs because PNS cell bodies are sensitive to damage to their nerve processes, and they react by sending out a signal that triggers the nerve fibers to regrow, explains Allan Basbaum, PhD, senior study author and chair of the UCSF Department of Anatomy. “Apparently this communication doesn’t take place within the CNS.”

The traditional scientific approach in efforts to enhance CNS regeneration is to manipulate the biochemical environment of the cells at the site of the spinal cord injury, according to Basbaum. Instead of this type of investigation, Basbaum’s team used nervous system manipulation techniques to apply the principles of PNS cell growth capability to CNS cells.

“A PNS injury at the time of spinal cord damage will only promote growth of nerve fibers into the spinal cord lesion, but not into the tissue beyond it. This is because growth capacity is enhanced, but it is not sustained,” he explains. In the new study, researchers evaluated the effect of two peripheral nerve lesions (injuries) in animals with spinal cord injury. One lesion was made at the time of the cord injury and a second was made a week later. Both lesions were located in the animals’ sciatic nerve, which is part of the PNS.

The researchers found that the two “priming lesions” not only promoted significant spinal cord regeneration within the area of the spinal cord injury, but more important, the regenerating axons grew back into normal areas of the spinal cord, where the hope is that functional connections can be reestablished. Axons are the long, fragile, fibers that conduct impulses between nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and limbs.

“Getting the growth beyond the lesion is key. If we can get those axons to grow even a few centimeters past the lesion, they can start sending signals and developing new circuits throughout the body,” says Basbaum. Basbaum adds that timing is critical for successful nerve regeneration. “There is a window of opportunity just after the injury when the potential for growth through and beyond the lesion is greatest. If we wait too long after an injury, the cells revert back to their normal, no-growth state. Plus, scar tissue begins to form, making growth difficult.”

Source: UCSF


6 thoughts on “Nerve regeneration is possible in spinal cord injuries

  1. pratheesh.r

    How long will take the neurons to recover .

    My brother got a spinalcord injury 6months before (wedge compression,partial tear ).involuntory reactions and spasam are high .But 3 fingers of his right leg has slight sensation. Is there any medicine to regenerate this injured spine. other thing is he is only 22yrs.pls send me informations as soon as possible

  2. loretta

    My husband was classified para 2 years ago from spinal cord compression. He has alot of spasms, high sensation, so far the only help is exercise, stretching and time. pray if you can. My husband is up on crutches now but still in a chair at times because his legs are not strong.

  3. kieran

    is there any new research into sc nerve regeneration? what did the ancient tribes use during a sci? i want to know. thanks. the answer is out there.

  4. In terms of the ‘window of opportunity’ during which nerves could regenerate into spinal cord areas..

    What if the person could re-experience the injury emotionally and mentally to ‘bring back’ that ‘window of opportunity’ to present time and enhance that regeneration in the process?

    This may be one factor involved with body electronics, the healing method described at (just info)

    I wish we could get some proper multidisciplinary research done involving the piezoelectric effect created in the body with this method. It is ‘cutting edge’ and entirely natural.

    Cheers! John

  5. ma muqeeth

    I am 19 year old paraplegic patient. I met with an accident 2 years ago on 12th January 2008. In that accident my spinal chord was injured .My injury level is T12 and below L1 burst fracture. I am not able to stand and walk properly. I lost my sensation and movement in my both legs. Now I am recovering well . I am getting involuntary movements and burning sensation in my both legs. My family is financially poor . We need some financial assistance for the stem cell treatment. so please provide me suggestion , details of stem cell treatment in INDIA and also cost of stem cell treatment in INDIA &financial help.

    Thank you.

    E mail-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s