In the new University research, scientists were able to regenerate “an astonishing degree” of axonal growth at the site of severe spinal cord injury in rats. Their research revealed that early stage neurons have the ability to survive and extend axons to form new, functional neuronal relays across an injury site in the adult central nervous system (CNS).
The study also proved that at least some types of adult CNS axons can overcome a normally inhibitory growth environment to grow over long distances. Importantly, stem cells across species exhibit these properties.
Researchers embedded neural stem cells in a matrix of fibrin -- a protein key to blood clotting already used in human neuron procedures -- mixed with growth factors to form a gel. The gel was then applied to the injury site in rats with completely severed spinal cords.