A new study determines the cellular mechanism certain species of animals use to regenerate neurons following a neurotmesis (complete spinal cord injury), while humans instead form scar tissue.
In humans, peripheral nerves can regenerate following a lesion, depending on the severity. However in the brain and spinal cord, the cells inhibit regeneration.
When a Mexican salamander suffers from a spinal cord injury, nearby cells proliferate and rebuild connections between nerves.
In contrast, when a human suffers from a spinal cord injury, nearby cells form scar tissue which blocks the nerves from forming a connection.
The mechanism for the salamander regeneration can be traced to a single protein c-Fos.
This research has future implications for gene therapy to treat spinal cord injury, limb regeneration and scar-free wound healing.