Spinal cord scarring may help promote healing

According to a study, the glial scar tissue that often develops on nerve fibers after brain and spinal injuries may actually help patients recover. The research, which was conducted by scientists at UCLA, runs counter to what many doctors in Pennsylvania and nationwide have long believed.

Doctors have traditionally attempted to prevent the formation of glial scar tissue on the spinal cord after an injury, believing it blocked the regrowth of healthy axons. However, researchers found that the scar tissue appeared to encourage axon regrowth in mice. For the study, they examined two sets of mice with spinal injuries. One group of mice was genetically modified to prevent the growth of scar tissue, and the other group was modified to dissolve scar tissue after it forms. Neither set of mice grew back axons after injury, meaning that the absence of scar tissue does not aid the healing process. Researchers then treated normal mice and genetically engineered mice with agents known to promote nerve regrowth. In normal mice, healthy axons regrew past the glial scar tissue. In the mice modified to prevent glial scarring, there was significantly less axon regrowth.

Despite the promising results, the researchers caution that their axon reqrowth techniques cannot be applied to human patients. However, they note that their study is significant because it challenges the medical establishment’s incorrect belief that glial scar tissue prevents healing.

An injury to the spinal cord can result in paralysis and may require a lifetime of expensive medical care. One common cause of such a catastrophic injury is a automobile collision. If it can be determined that the accident was due to the negligence of another motorist, an attorney can seek compensation for the victim’s expected future losses through a personal injury lawsuit filed against the at-fault driver.

Source: UPI, “Glial Scar Tissue May Help Spinal Cord Regrowth After Injury,” Stephen Feller, March 31, 2016