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Effect of age on spinal cord injuries

While any injury has the potential to be serious, those involving the spine are often particularly catastrophic. Depending on the severity of the injury it is possible someone could face paralysis of some, or all, limbs, dramatically changing the lives of those involved. This is true regardless of the age of the person who has been hurt.

Because every person and injury is different, what, if any, recovery someone who suffers a spinal injury might experience will vary. According to a study that was funded in part by Canadian Institutes for Health Research and John and Penny Ryan British Columbia Leadership Chair in Spinal Cord Injury Research, the age of the spinal patient could make a difference.

A reason that injuries to the spine are often so devastating is there is a limit to how the brain's communication wires found in the spinal cord regenerate in humans and other mammals following an injury. The study specifically focused on how mice of different ages recovered from an injury to the spine. It found that as mice aged, their ability to regenerate these axons diminished, resulting in fewer functional gains. Two different neurons were involved and the results were the same with both.

The results of this study are important since they provide researchers a direction for further study. They indicate they will explore ways to modify the terrain where axons regenerate. In addition, they will look at ways to boost the natural regeneration program of neurons. In turn, this could lead to new treatments for individuals who have suffered a spinal injury, potentially dramatically improving the extent of their recovery.

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