Spring and summer have been humdinger seasons for news about repairing spinal cord injury — and not just because of the encouraging research about cord stimulation I reported in April and July. This month’s story involves giving the brain a chance to reconnect to the cord below the injury site in a different, and potentially more exciting, way. I’m talking about corticospinal regeneration — the holy grail of SCI research for as long as scientists have been trying to repair damaged cords. To be brief, corticospinal regeneration is the process by which damaged axons that are attached to healthy neuron cell bodies grow past the site of injury and restore lost connections with cells below that lesion.
A quick refresher might be useful.
In a functioning central nervous system, there’s a group of brain cells called corticospinal neurons. They have three main physical parts: a cell body, a forest of dendrites and a single slender axon with exquisitely tiny nerve endings at the far end. The cell body hol