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New hope for the sufferers of serious spinal cord injuries, with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, enjoying success in an attempt to re-grow nerve tissue in the damaged spinal cords of rats, according to the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

The neural stem cell grafts succeeded in re-establishing connections between nerve cells and the brains of the rodents, allowing them to regain movement and to walk again. The research raises the possibility that the technique could one day be used to treat the serious spinal cord injuries of human patients.

Professor Mark Tuszynski, the study's senior author, said that it demonstrated that regeneration of nerve cells between the spine and brain is possible. "It has not been successfully regenerated before. Many have tried, many have failed – including us, in previous efforts," he added.

"The new thing here was that we used neural stem cells for the first time to determine whether they, unlike any other cell type tested, would support regeneration. And to our surprise, they did."

Furthermore, said Tuszynski, the process offers "promising" potential for adaptation into human patients; however, he stated that the approach must first be trialled on other animals. The scientists are also keen to identify "the best type of human neural stem cell to bring to the clinic" before they can do this.

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