A protein in zebrafish which helps regeneration of their severed spinal cords could help promote healing in people with paralysis.
In humans and other mammals, when the spinal cord is severed, special cells called glia are activated to prevent bleeding into the spinal cord, forming a glial scar. However this scar stops nerve cells which carrying impulses to the brain from entering the wound, resulting in paralysis.
In zebrafish, the glia forms a bridge at the site of the injury, but nerve cells are able to penetrate and zebrafish are able to regenerate their spinal cords within two months.
This protein in zebrafish controls the shape of the glia and can be manipulated to promote even faster healing. It is hoped this discovery will be able to promote better recovery in individuals with spinal cord injuries.