There are no definitive treatments for spinal cord injury. However, ongoing research to test new therapies is progressing rapidly. Drugs to limit injury progression, decompression surgery, nerve cell transplantation and nerve regeneration, as well as nerve rejuvenation therapies, are being examined as potential ways to minimise the effects of spinal cord injury.

The biology of the injured spinal cord is enormously complex but clinical trials are underway with more coming – hope for restoring function after paralysis continues to rise, and for good reason. Still, paralysis is considered one of the toughest medical problems. In recent years though, the word ‘cure’ has not only entered the vocabulary of the science community, but also that of clinicians. Restorative neuroscience is bubbling with energy and expectation.

To be sure, scientific progress is a slow and steady march. One day in the not-too-distant future there will be a host of procedures and treatments to mitigate the effects of paralysis that will be given at various time points in the injury’s progress, including a significant rehabilitation component.

There is work being done in several research areas including:

  • The modification of the secondary biochemical events that occur after the initial damage to protect the nerves from damage
  • Bridging of the damaged area of the cord with transplanted cells or perhaps a miniature scaffold
  • Cell replacement to offer support and help nurture surviving cells
  • The regeneration of long axons over long distances by blocking inhibitory factors, adding nutrients and supplying a matrix to grow on
  • The physical rehabilitation component to rebuild muscle, build bone and reactive patterns of movement to affect recovery and once function returns

This has been written with the assistance of the Paralysis Resource Guide. This guide is published by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center. Find out more about the Guide here and the Foundation here.