Albert Juan Aguayo
Studies regeneration of neurons in the brain and spinal chord
Aguayo is head of a national research group studying regeneration of neurons in the brain. He was able to prove that damaged nerve cells in animals can regenerate and form new connections, a phenomenon regarded to be impossible before his revolutionary 1980 experiment on severed nerve fibres in the rodent brain. He discovered that nerve cells do not die immediately when damaged, but may survive even for months. Under the right conditions, such as the enveloping presence of Schwann cells (support cells that provide structure and insulation for nerve fibres), this survival provides opportunity for healing. Although actual cures of serious nerve injuries have not yet been achieved, more recent research with damaged optic nerves indicates they can sometimes recover to some extent.
In 2001, Aguayo became Secretary-General of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO).
Sources: Who’s Who in America 1994; Newsweek, October 7, 1985; Boston Globe, October 19, 1992; Interscientia, McGill press release, The McGill Reporter; photo credit: Owen Egan, McGill Reporter Sept. 9, 1999.