There’s nothing simple about repairing spinal cord injuries. But new research has pinned down how one of the most cutting edge techniques works, and in particular how the body can repair itself with a little prompting from surgeons.
As well as giving experts more insight into existing treatments, it’s hoped the study will lead to techniques for tackling other types of damage to the nervous system – perhaps even in cases where the spinal cord itself is severed.
The team from King’s College London in the UK focussed on a recently developed method for reconnecting sensory neurons to the spinal cord after traumatic injuries, looking at how the repair happens on a cellular level, and the way in which small neural offshoots grow to reconnect broken circuits in the body.
“The strategy of encouraging new growth from spinal neurons could potentially be of use in other injuries of the nervous system,” says one of the researchers, Thomas Carlstedt.
The spinal cord handles both motor neurons for muscle movement, and sensory neurons for pain, touch, and so on, enabling all the body’s nerve cells to communicate with the brain.