'Rewired' Nerves Restore Ability to Walk

Promising research on mice raises hopes for human breakthrough
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2008 1:40 PM CST
   (KRT Photos)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Scientists have figured out how mice that lose the ability to walk after a spinal-cord injury can regain it, a finding that could someday help human patients, Scientific American reports. When the long nerves that run from the brain to the base of the spine were severed, shorter nerves in the area were repurposed—not regrown, as was previously believed.

"If you have a big freeway going somewhere, then that's the fastest route to take," the lead researcher tells Reuters. "If that gets blocked and you can't get through, an alternative way might be simply to get off the freeway and use shorter interconnected side streets to get around." Over a period of about 10 weeks, mice began to walk again, although not as well as before.