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Geckos could hold the answer to healing spinal injuries

Living with a spinal cord injury is devastating, but with that devastation can come hope when new medical techniques and discoveries are announced. One such discovery could make a huge difference in your life in the future, according to a Nov. 3 report. The news states that studies involving the gecko could hold the answer to helping people with spinal cord injuries regain their bodies' functions.

Similarly to other lizards, a gecko has the ability to regrow its tail after it breaks off. What is special about the gecko is that it takes only a month for the tail to regrow in completion. That's faster than any other known lizard.

The scientists at the University of Guelph discovered that the tail of the gecko contains part of its spinal cord and has a stem cell that creates specialized proteins in response to injury. The proteins actually create a new spinal cord, healing the gecko completely.

The stem cells, called radial glia, normally stay in a dormant state. However, when the gecko is injured, they immediately become active and create the necessary healing proteins for a new spinal cord. Compared to a human's body, which makes scar tissue around the wound, this is an advanced healing method. Humans can't regenerate their spinal cords because of the sealing that stops bleeding and other damage.

The way a human body heals actually prevents it from healing more thoroughly. Unfortunately, humans don't have the right cells to heal the way geckos do. If those cells could be harnessed, then the lives of many with spinal cord injuries could be changed forever.

Source: Fierce Biotech, "Gecko’s talent for regrowing its tail could help people with spinal cord injuries," Arlene Weintraub, Nov. 03, 2017

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