The cells of the nervous system are so highly specialized, especially those in the spine and brain, that when damaged by injury or disease the capacities (reading, speaking, walking, remembering, etc.) that resided within the cells are lost. Simply replacing those cells, however, will not repair the damage — the cells must connect with other cells, forming an uninterrupted chain along which commands and sensations can travel.
Great medical advances are underway in the field of neurology and regenerative medicine. The McGowan Institute is utilizing the incidence of stroke (or brain injury) as an experimental model for cellular repair through neuron transplantation.
We're working on several approaches to nervous system regeneration, from transplanting mature cells to replace those destroyed by stroke, to pharmacological treatments that help people with brain injuries regain function, to the investigation of stem cells as treatments. We're also working on lab-made guides with microscopic channels that help axons, the long arms of nerve cells, find their way to other nerve cells.