Spinal cord injury is one of the most catastrophic injuries an individual in Louisiana can suffer. Whether it is due to a car accident or a worsening medical condition, quadriplegic and paraplegic injuries can affect a person for their entire life. Restoring the function of damaged cells after a spinal cord injury completely depends on forming new connections between the surviving nerve cells.

Medical science has already made advancements in reconnecting nerves through delicate surgeries, but researchers are working hard to find ways that allow these cells to restore and function independently on a cellular level without surgery.

A biomedical engineer professor is exploring every scientific avenue to discover the best way to restore connections lost between nerve cells when a spinal cord injury occurs. The professor, who is well-known for pioneering discoveries in tissue engineering, is taking a closer look at the effects of spinal cord injury on connections within nerve cell walls and connections between nerve cells and other cells. She is trying various methods to find out how these cells can restart sending signals from the brain to the body.

Previous researchers in the field have shown recovery for a few cases of partial spinal cord injury. However, researchers are unable to understand which cells are forming connections and how the rewiring process occurs. Researchers say that it is important to understand what is going on at a cellular level. Once they discover which types of cells form these types of connections, it will be easier to determine how those cells can be cultured and transplanted into a damaged spinal cord.

Some microdevices are also being used to determine and control interactions between neurons. The process is definitely speeding up, and researchers are hoping to make the lasts strides toward restoring functions lost due to spinal cord injury in the very near future.

Source: News-Medical.net, “New NIH grant to help restore function after spinal cord injury,” Feb. 10, 2015