Brokenback bypass

>> Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A UCLA study suggests that in certain cases of paralysis, the nervous system may be able to re-route signals around damaged areas of the spinal cord.

From the article:
The UCLA team's next step will be to learn how to entice nerve cells in the spinal cord to grow and form new pathways that connect across or around an injury site, enabling the brain to direct these cells. If the researchers succeed, the findings could lead to the development of new strategies for restoring mobility following spinal cord injury.

While any application to humans is probably far down the road (and may be further hindered by the fact that one of the most promising ways to entice growth of nerve cells is heavily restricted under current Federal law), what is highly promising is that this discovery changes one of the fundamental "rules" that we've been operating under: that the nervous system is largely hardwired from birth and traumatic spinal damage is irreversible. (Or, perhaps more accurately: "Can you fix it?" "No, I can't. But, I can bypass it.")

Anyway, not to get anyone's hopes up, but it's good news.


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