Following Bush’s stem cell veto last recently, there have been a number of timely articles that are now out, on recapitulating development in nerve regeneration following CNS (and spinal cord in particular) injuries.
As I noted in Friday’s link digest, Evil Monkey has a great rendition of how embryonic stem cells could help tremendously with nerve regeneration.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience has a series of relevant reviews also.
Since the surprising finding that injured axons in the mature central nervous system can re-grow, there has been dramatic progress in our understanding of the molecular, cellular and circuitry level responses to injuries to the adult mammalian central nervous system. This special Focus issue highlights recent developments in this field, with a view to understanding the underlying mechanisms that will enable the development of appropriate therapeutic strategies.
Perhaps the best of the bunch, for the educated (but non-expert) public, is the Perspectives opinion piece by Bradbury and McMahon: Spinal cord repair strategies: why do they work?. Their conclusions:
The literature on SCI suggests that several treatment interventions can promote regeneration of damaged axons. The degree of such regeneration remains modest, but might be sufficient to account for functional recovery. Compensatory collateral sprouting has also been observed to occur spontaneously after SCI, and this process can be enhanced considerably by several interventions. Unfortunately, the extent to which these two mechanisms account for the functional effects of a known treatment is still not fully established. There are other eminently plausible mechanisms that could contribute to functional recovery. These remain mostly untested at present, and those discussed here do not form an exhaustive list. The diversity of mechanisms that might promote recovery from SCI could increase the options for developing novel therapies, but it also makes it more important to identify the mechanisms that are activated by any one treatment.