Are geckos the key to spinal cord regeneration?

Consider the gecko. These small lizards, have an ingenious way of escaping their predators — they break off their tails. But that’s not even the coolest thing these reptiles do, as they possess the ability to regenerate their severed appendages in only a month’s time.

As researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph learned, gecko tails and spinal cords have special stem cells that produce the proteins needed to regenerate the missing portions of the geckos spinal cords.

The scientists published their findings in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. Moreover, they believe there is potential to use this information to discover a way for people with spinal cord injuries to do the same.

The special stem cells are known as radial glia, which typically remain at rest. However, once a gecko sheds its tail, the radial glia begin to work overtime to produce the healing proteins that rebuild their damaged and missing spinal cords.

This process is the complete opposite of the way human bodies work in similar circumstances. Unlike geckos, human spinal cord injuries are sealed with scar tissue, which slams the door on regeneration.

Of course, this discovery is a far cry from being able to harness the knowledge in order to regenerate human spinal cords after grievous injuries.

Still, it is the first step of a process that one day could end the paralysis with which many spinal cord injury victims must cope.

Did you suffer a spinal cord injury and wind up paralyzed? Don’t give up hope. Until researchers learn more about the regenerative powers of geckos, you may need to file a lawsuit to receive compensation for your injuries and get the treatment that you need.