The therapy, which used a common antibiotic as the on/off switch to activate the treatment for two months, resulted in rats with spinal injuries relearning complex hand movements.
Despite a number of exciting advances in the field of spinal injury regeneration over recent years, there is still no treatment available to help those that have damaged spinal cords regain simple control over things like hand movement. One of the big challenges in overcoming this problem is that following a traumatic spinal injury there tends to be an accumulation of scar tissue that prevents nerve cells from regenerating and reconnecting.
For some years scientists have known that the direct administration of an enzyme called chondroitinase can promote nerve recovery by breaking down that scar tissue. Several animal trials have shown this enzyme to be effective in restarting new nerve growth, but the need for repeated, and invasive, administration has slowed the research into a human clinical treatment.