A new treatment based on the shells of sea creatures like lobsters may offer fresh hope to paralyzed and brain-damaged patients.
US researchers have found that a simple sugar found in crustacean shells appears to be able to cure damaged spinal chords, reports The Daily Express.
Professor Richard Borgens, director of the Centre for Paralysis Research in Indiana, which is pioneering the new treatment, said: "This is the most exciting development for spinal cord and brain injury since Second World War.
"I am very excited. Using chemicals to repair the damaged nervous system is a completely new way to treat people with these terrible injuries. It's amazing one of these special chemicals would turn out to be a sugar."
In the treatment, the sugar, mixed with sterile water, is injected into the bloodstream and then migrates to the spinal cord injury where it plugs holes in the coating of the nerve cells.
Borgens added: "Science has moved in a new direction. Previously we have been looking at drugs which would potentially reduce damage. Now we are looking at complete repair."
The treatment, successfully used in guinea pigs, will also work in human trials, says the expert.
"The spinal cord of a guinea pig is very similar to that of a human - it is just smaller," he said.
"This is not like a drug which may work in some species and not in others. This is a mechanical effect.
"The sugar molecules migrate to the nerve injury target and repair the injured area, not the undamaged area."
The discovery, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, was made by Youngman Cho, a chemist in his team.