A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience notes that U.S. researchers have created a nano-engineered gel that can enable severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow, United Press International reports. According to the Northwestern University researchers, spinal cord injuries usually lead to permanent paralysis and sensation loss because damaged nerve fibers cannot regenerate. UPI adds that, “although nerve fibers or axons have the capacity to re-grow, they don't because they're blocked by scar tissue that develops around the injury.” The nanogel developed at the university, however, hinders the formation of scar tissue and allows severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow. According to UPI, “the gel is injected as a liquid into the spinal cord and self-assembles into a scaffold that supports new nerve fibers.” For the study, researchers injected the gel into mice with a spinal cord injury, and after six weeks the animals had a greatly enhanced ability to use their hind legs and walk. Though he acknowledges that tests on mice do not necessarily translate to outcomes for humans, the study leader notes that if the gel is eventually approved for humans, a clinical trial could begin within several years (UPI, 4/7/08).