A new nerve graft treatment detailed in the journal Nature could offer new hope to people with a spinal injury, after it restored breathing function to paralysed rats.
Researchers used a certain enzyme to enable grafted nerve cells to infiltrate the motor neurons responsible for muscle function.
The treatment proved successful, and after several weeks the rats slowly regained the use of previously paralysed muscles.
Jerry Silver, a neuroscientist at Case Western University in Ohio and a co-author of the study, said: "The return of function occurs around 10 weeks and then really blooms around 12 weeks.
"It's really remarkable. Once the activity starts to return it's really robust."
Now scientists hope that a similar technique could help to restore breathing in quadriplegics and those who have sustained a spinal injury.
Recently, a separate animal study suggested that spinal injuries may be made worse by cells from the spleen, rather than bone marrow as previously thought.
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