Torn spinal nerves can be reconnected by removing a "biological brake" on growth, scientists have shown.
The research, conducted on mice, points the way to restoring movement in paralysed victims of back and neck injuries.
Researchers in the US focused on a protein that turns off the growth of nerve fibres in adults. By genetically deleting the protein, an enzyme called PTEN, they were able to switch on the ability of spinal nerves to regenerate.
The scientists are now investigating whether the technique can restore movement to mice crippled by spinal cord injuries.
Researchers will explore ways of blocking the enzyme. The findings were reported yesterday in the journal 'Nature Neuroscience'.