More than being able to bend their knees or wiggle their toes again, paralyzed people long to be able to use the bathroom normally. Regaining bladder control would end embarrassing accidents, awkward catheters, costly medical care and dangerous, sometimes deadly infections.
A Cleveland team's research has moved that goal closer to reality.
In rats whose spinal cords were completely cut – the worst kind of paralysis injury – scientists from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic were able to prod nerve fibers to gradually grow across gaps the width of a pencil and reconnect. The tendrils' months-long journey was aided by scaffolding soaked in growth-boosting and scar-busting chemicals.