One of the holy grails of nerve repair is fixing the spinal cord. Currently, if your spinal cord is injured, even in a small fashion, you’re up the creek; it’s a permanent disability that you’re just going to have to learn to deal with, and, no, “South Park” was not correct about sucking the stem cells out of fetuses. That doesn’t work. Don’t try it.
The process, discovered by Zhigang He of Harvard Medical School, is surprisingly simple as these things go. An enzyme called PTEN is removed, which controls a pathway called mTORR, which is important in the growth of cells. When you’re growing up, you’ve got very little PTEN, and as you age, the stuff kicks in to keep you from becoming a bulging mutant freak. But removing it in spinally injured mice saw the cord grow back, just as He had demonstrated earlier with mice regrowing a connection between the eye and the brain.
In short, we’ve made a major breakthrough that will end centuries of human misery and allow people to do away with their disabilities. Now get to work on that healing factor, we want Hugh Jackman to have real claws and suffer really painful injuries by the next “Wolverine” movie.
[ via PhysOrg ]