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Is it possible to repair a damaged spinal cord?!
Yes, I truly believe so, in theory that is.
It's not a matter of money. It's not like some specialist can do it IF you give him/her enough money. It's also not a matter of time, just waiting and doing nothing will NEVER bring this solution. It is: a matter of research and development, on many fronts. A powerful president who obstructs stem cells research and likes to make war, does not help.

A healthy spinal cord is an everyday reality for most people, so the goal is realistic. It's not like building a time machine, which is something that has never been around. I'd say that everything that is broken, can be fixed, in theory. But repairing a spinal cord is something amazingly complex. If we manage to rebuilt that, then we could rebuilt possibly every part of the human body, which has numerous strange applications, that will make many ethical discussions rise.

Stem cells are an important part of the solution. Stem cells have the ability to become ANY body part. In around 2006, the first "human trails" with stem cells have been done, after some great successes on fish and rats. It doesn't surprise me that the results were not very positive, but one has to start somewhere, and I thank everybody who was sincere and took that risk. Stem cell therapy goes something like this:
- Harvest stem cells from the person him/her selves.
- Remove the "dirt" from the neck
- Place the stem cells in the neck
- Recover from the operation and start intense training
All together a very dangerous thing to do. I think this approach is mainly build upon the hope that stem cells know exactly what to do. Which they don't.

The first step in rebuilding the spinal cord, is to learn as much as possible about it. It's not just the spinal nerves that need to be rebuilt, every part of the body is involved -more or less. Exactly how many nerves pass through my neck at C3/4? That is a very simple question, butI haven't been able to find that number. To me it seems like the research is stuck in the very first steps, I hope I'm wrong.
One thing is clear to me: the spinal cord and it's surroundings aren't electro-mechanical like how we build most machines. This environment is biological. The biological processes that are alive within just one nerve, are already very complex. Simulating all these processes would take a whole factory of people with tools. Scientists discover more and more, but the truth is than scientist and doctors know very little about the human body (relative to all fully understanding every detail & the whole).
Another thing that is clear to me is that rebuilding the spinal cord has to happen at nano-scale. If there would be a nano surgeon, he/she would NEVER be able to fix a spinal cord, because that would be like one builder trying to rebuilding an operating capital city with a tweezer.
We don't have the luxury of star trek "beam me up scotty" technology, where a body can be transformed into energy & information, be transported with the speed of light, and next be rebuilt at the destination. Star trek technology could use bio filters that could repair the spinal cord, or whatever you want, during the transfer. But that is star trek. The most powerful tool we have is our own body. Our body is constantly busy repairing itself, and I'm sure it would love to repair the spinal cord too, but clearly: it needs some help here.
If you start doing repairs that the body doesn't trust, then it will resist, which can cause a lot more damage. So we have to work together with our body, if we want to succeed.

1) Heal the damaged part in a stimulated but natural way.
2) Replace the damaged part with a new nerve connecting material.
3) By-pass the damaged part, by using nerve to chip technology.
Other "options"
4) Build a brain-computer-body system. Control the computer that controls your body. People often show me the processes in this area, but I don't believe building external nervous system will ever be a good solution.
5) Copy or move all the non-material things that make a person's soul, and paste it into another natural (clone) or mechanical body (robot).
Final option
6) And of course one more option, the natural solution that life has been practicing for millions of years: die.

All together, only number 1 and 2 seem like real options.

Nano robots, bacteria and viruses.
One nano surgeon will NEVER be able to do all the work that is needed. I would need hundreds or thousands of nano surgeons simontaniously to do the job. This is where the nano robots come into the picture. They aren't here yet, but we could make them. They can work together like ants and bees do. Their job would be to assist the body in the healing process. Transporting all that is needed from and to the right places at the right time. I imagine stem cells will be the most important materials to transport and build with. An old fashion operation wouldn't be necessary anymore, just two tubes to get stuff in and out could be enough, greatly reducing the chances of infections and physical damage. The should be a feedback system, to keep track of the progress, and it should be possible to give the nano robots new instructions.
Although nanoscale robots are easier to realise than star trek's transportation tools, they aren't here to use yet.
Bacteria and viruses are nanoscale builders, there natural environment is close to nanoscale, they do their things at that level. They aren't always appreciate because some of them make us sick or even kill us, but if they are willing to work for us, they are the ones, the only ones that can do the job at this time. They could remove the scar tissue and such "dirt" out, and stem cells and such in.
So, let us discover how some bacteria and viruses can be willing to help us. A potential powerful solution, that of course can have dangerous other effects too, so we need to be very careful on this one. As in all new developments: aim for the solution, and prepare for the worst. It won't be easy, does that stop you from searching for a solution?
Search the web for: nanorobots spinal cord
Search the web for images: nanobot, nanobots, nano robot, nano robots.
A BBC article: Spinal injury regeneration hope (17 feb 2008)

Useful types of Carbon?
There are many kinds of carbon molecules, of which a couple could play a role in repairing a spinal cord:
Fullerenes are molecules bonded trigonally, forming spheroids, of which the best-known and simplest is the C60 buckminsterfullerene or buckyball, because of its soccerball-shaped structure. Could in these holow spheroids, the materials needed for the repair could be stored for transport? For the past decade, the chemical and physical properties of fullerenes have been a hot topic in the field of research and development.
Carbon nanotubes are members of the fullerene structural family. A single wall carbon nanotube is a one-atom thick sheet of graphite (called graphene) rolled up into a seamless cylinder with diameter of the order of a nanometer. This results in a nanostructure where the length-to-diameter ratio exceeds 10,000. Such cylindrical carbon molecules have novel properties that make them potentially useful in a wide variety of applications. They've already been able to produce 18-mm-long carbon nanotubes! Nanotubes naturally align themselves into "ropes" held together by Van der Waals forces.
Nanotubes are theoretically 100 times stronger than steel. Properties include: high tensile strength, high electrical conductivity, high ductility, high resistance to heat, and relative chemical inactivity. Could these replace axons, or support the growth of axons?
Although C60 has been thought in theory to be relatively inert, research suggests the molecule is injurious to organisms, causing cellular damage (lipid peroxidation) and it could cause DNA to deform...
Search the web for: Carbon nanotubes nerves axon
Search the web for images: Carbon nanotubes
More information at Wikipedia

Stem cells
These beautiful mysterious magical cells, that can become ANY body part. Yes, we'll definitely need these. But they need us to, because the body apparently doesn't know how to repair a spinal cord. We have to guide our stem cells!
Search the web for: stem cells spinal cord
Search the web for images: stem cells
More information at Wikipedia

Giesbert Nijhuis

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