For the first time in history, medical scientists have been able to make injured nerves repair themselves. This offer real hope for people affected by spinal injuries and similar damage to the nervous system.
Nerve tissue connections have been induced with robust regeneration, and paralysis victims and patients with impairments to their motor functions will be able to have new therapies and treatments in the not-so-distant future.
How the nerve regeneration was accomplished was by deleting PTEN which is an enzyme that is considered a major brake on cell growth. There is also a growth molecule involved that is key to this finding; it is called mTOR. And PTEN can control this growth molecule.
When a person is young their PTEN activity is low. This allows mTOR molecules to start growth processes. When a person grows older, PTEN will increase and mTOR decreases which will prevent growth.
So, by deleting PTEN, cortico-spinal nerve regeneration can occur.
In a 2008 study on learning how to restore the developmental stage cell growth in early life, if PTEN and the mTOR pathway were modulated, it actually enabled regeneration of new connections from the brain to the eye after optic nerve damage.
The results were published in the August 8th, 2010 edition of Nature Neuroscience.
The corticospinal tract is a bundle of nerves connecting the brain and spinal cord. Nerve regeneration has been accomplished in other areas of the CNS or mature central nervous system. But, these set of nerves has been extremely resistant to regeneration after an injury happens.