Nerve regeneration is a complex biological phenomenon. In the peripheral nervous system, nerves can regenerate on their own if injuries are small. Larger injuries must be surgically treated, typically with nerve grafts harvested from elsewhere in the body. Spinal cord injury is more complicated, as there are factors in the body that inhibit repair. Unfortunately, a solution to completely repair spinal cord injury has not been found. Thus, bioengineering strategies for the peripheral nervous system are focused on alternatives to the nerve graft, whereas efforts for spinal cord injury are focused on creating a permissive environment for regeneration. Fortunately, recent advances in neuroscience, cell culture, genetic techniques, and biomaterials provide optimism for new treatments for nerve injuries. This article reviews the nervous system physiology, the factors that are critical for nerve repair, and the current approaches that are being explored to aid peripheral nerve regeneration and spinal cord repair.