Adult central nervous system (CNS) axons fail to regenerate following injury. Thus, severed axons are permanently disconnected from their target neurons, resulting in persistent loss of motor and/or sensory function. Much of the research conducted in the Spinal Cord Research Center is focused on promoting regrowth of these injured axons across a lesion site to re-establish connections and, hopefully, mediate functional recovery.
There are multiple obstacles that underlie the failure of axon regeneration that must be surmounted:
1) The intrinsic axon growth capacity of mature neurons is low
2) The extracellular environment at the injury site potently inhibits axonal growth
3) Cavitation at the injury site results in a cyst – axons need a substrate on which to grow
Multiple investigators within the Spinal Cord Research Center have research programs built on understanding the mechanisms behind these impediments and developing combinatorial therapies to overcome them to ultimately achieve robust, functionally-relevant, axon regeneration.