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Spinal Cord Injury Research

Spinal cord injury research has been going on since the 1830s. Theodore Schwann did spinal cord injury research and reported that regrowth and regeneration of nerve cells was being shown in rabbits. Later in 1890, Santiago Ramon Cajal described to the medical community that the mammals he was observing were showing signs that their damaged nerves were trying to regenerate. Cajal stated that the problem was that the nerves lacked the ability to make connections.

The logs of spinal cord injury research go on to tell us that Cajal knew that the peripheral nervous system (which are nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain) did regrow. Cajal thought that is a person could take cells from the peripheral nervous system and put them into the areas of the spinal cord that were damaged that they could possibly make the spinal cord nerves start to regrow. The early part of the 1900s was when J.F. Tello made his mark on spinal cord injury research when he did show that injured nerves could, in fact, regrow or regenerate if they were given the proper type of nourishment or environment.

Spinal cord injury research seemed to be at a stand still until antibiotics, critical care techniques and improved surgical methods were discovered after World War II. The 1960s made its mark when Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini found the substance that nerve cells needed for nourishment. Their discovery is earmarked in spinal cord research as the first nerve growth factor. The following decades saw many other nerve growth factors being discovered. During this time the medical community also learned that certain cells would respond differently to different new growth factors.

The 1980s brought about the discovery that regeneration or regrowth could occur in nerves, but for some reason the growth was being stopped by blockers or inhibitors. So, the medical community's research took a turn as they begin to focus on how to prevent these inhibitors or blockers from stopping nerve';s regeneration or regrowth.

It is important to note that spinal cord injury research does not just focus on a cure, though that is its ultimate goal. Spinal cord injury research encompasses all phases of the spinal cord injury – from immediate injury care, to acute care, to the middle phases of care, to rehabilitative care and beyond. To date many advances have been made that are helping to decrease the damage of an injury at the time it occurs. When individuals suffer from spinal cord injuries the spinal cord generally starts to swell. When the spinal cord swells there will usually be changes that occur in every part of the individual’s body. Using steroid drugs to help control swelling is one such stride that has been made in spinal cord injury research. Seeing as the swelling that occurs after a spinal cord injury is a common cause of many secondary problems, this is a step in the right direction in regards to treating spinal cord injuries.

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