The human brain is arguably the most complex organ. Throughout life, it is shaped ever so slightly by each and every experience we endure. The resulting nuances are what make us unique individuals. Unfortunately, the more intricate the system, the harder it is to fix when damaged. Death of any brain tissue will almost certainly result in some sort of physical or cognitive impairment, and, in severe cases, epilepsy, coma, or death. This is because the lost brain tissue can neither grow back like skin nor be replaced like a kidney.
Or can it?
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 500,000 people will experience spinal cord injuries (SCI) every year. Researchers at the Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland reported that approximately half of human spinal cord injuries lead to paralysis severe enough to keep the person in a wheelchair for the rest of his or her life. An incomplete spinal cord injury is sufficient to cause severe motor impairments. However, in most of these patients, a few nerve fiber bridges remain at the site of injury. Can researchers figure out a way to repair these paths and help the patient regain functional movement after spinal cord injury?Continue reading