Kate WilletteIn the October 2018 issue of NEW MOBILITY, I told you about a breakthrough experiment in which Dr. Xiaoguang Li and his team of scientists in Beijing had managed to get surviving corticospinal axons to grow down across an injury site with the help of a scaffold (“bridge”) treated with a nerve growth factor. Axons, remember, are the gossamer threads that project out from neuron cell bodies in the brain; they carry your thoughts (brain signals) through the cord to other neurons and eventually on to your muscles. Broken axons are why people stay paralyzed. The conventional wisdom is that once damaged, they can’t regenerate.

The Beijing story is exciting all by itself, but — amazingly — it’s not the only time this year that a scientist has broken that old conventional wisdom into tiny little pieces. Last February, a team at the University of California in Davis did the same thing, but with a completely different method. In their test with animals’ damaged cords, the Beijing team had inserted a tiny, growth-factor-infused plug made of a naturally dissolving material into the gap. Using the same species of monkey, the UC Davis team, led by Dr. Mark Tuszynski, grafted a matrix of living cells into a similar gap.

The Beijing idea was to simply make it pos