For years, doctors have thought that the scar tissue that forms over spinal cord injuries hinders the recovery process. Now, a study by UCLA researchers shows that scarring may actually help spinal nerve cells regrow.

Prevailing medical dogma has long held that scarring blocks the regrowth of spinal axon cells, which carry messages between other nerve cells. For the study, researchers blocked the formation of scar tissue in mice with spine injuries to see if it would improve the regrowth of axons. However, they were surprised to discover that mice without scar tissue showed less axon regrowth than mice with scar tissue. After taking a closer look, the authors of the study theorized that scar-forming cells known as astrocytes may aid axon regrowth by reducing inflammation, which can damage spinal tissue.

Around 12,500 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 276,000 Americans are living with long-term health issues related to spinal cord injuries. Scientists are researching a number of methods to restore lost function to spinal cord patients.

Spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis and other permanent disabilities, requiring expensive medical care and treatment. In some cases victims are unable to return to gainful employment. These types of injuries can result from falls from heights, workplace accidents and motor vehicle collisions. When such an injury is caused by the negligence of another party, legal counsel could be of assistance in filing a lawsuit seeking appropriate compensation.

Source: Medical News Today, “Spinal injury scars appear to help, not hinder, nerve regrowth,” Catharine Paddock, April 11, 2016