From Live Science, a summary of a recent paper in PNAS:
“Scientists partially restored the vision in blinded hamsters by plugging gaps in their injured brains with a synthetic substance that allowed brain cells to reconnect with one another, a new study reports.
“If it can be applied to humans, the microscopic material could one day help restore sensory and motor function to patients suffering from strokes and injuries of the brain or spinal cord. It could also help mend cuts made in the brain during surgery…
“The substance contains nano-sized particles that self-assemble into a fibrous mesh that mimics the body’s natural connective tissue when placed in contact with living cells.”
Caveats: the damage was done in the form of sharp, clean cuts, and the material was applied immediately, so this technique may not work as well with messy, older damage where scar tissue has had time to form. Still, it’s encouraging. They are now testing it on spinal cord injuries, and when applied after a period of time has passed since the damage. —Christine