Injury to the adult mammalian spinal cord results in extensive axonal degeneration, variable amounts of neuronal loss, and often severe functional deficits. Restoration of controlled function depends on regeneration of these axons through an injury site and the formation of functional synaptic connections. One strategy that has emerged for promoting axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury is the implantation of autologous Schwann cells into sites of spinal cord injury to support and guide axonal growth. Further, more recent experiments have shown that neurotrophic factors can also promote axonal growth, and, when combined with Schwann cell grafts, can further amplify axonal extension after injury. Continued preclinical development of these approaches to neural repair may ultimately generate strategies that could be tested in human injury.
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