Recent research shows potentially promising results in an injectable therapy for those who have suffered from severe injuries to their spinal cord. The study was conducted at Northwestern University using mice with spinal cord paralysis. Four weeks following the injection near the spinal cord, the mice were able to walk. Researchers noted five improvements:
- Axons regenerated.
- Scar tissue was reduced.
- Myelin began to reform around the damaged areas.
- More nutrients were sent to the area because of an increase in functional blood vessel formation.
- A higher number of motor neurons continued to function.
The materials in the injection were biodegradable and no side effects were noticed during the 12 weeks when the materials were circulating in the mice’s bodies. The study’s leader, Samuel Stupp, said that the focus of the study was on repair since the central nervous system has a low level of ability to repair itself following significant damage, particularly injuries.
With an estimated 300,000 patients living with spinal cord injuries in the US, the researchers wanted to provide a more effective treatment. Currently under 3% of people with these injuries recover basic functionality for affected areas, and nearly a third of patients are re-hospitalized about once a year. They also have a lower life expectancy than people without these injuries, and their life expectancy has not improved in the last 40 years. This study was conducted to help find a way to improve the life and life expectancy of patients with spinal cord injuries, and the therapy could also help people who have suffered from strokes or other neurological issues.
The researchers found that working with the motions of the molecules, they could increase the therapeutic effects on the damaged areas. Injections also help cells to survive the initial injury. This means that the treatment works best when the injection occurs soon after the injury. However, it could have further applications well beyond just the injury of spinal cords. Researchers are hopeful that they will be able to help people with neurodegenerative illnesses, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
For more details on the developments of this promising treatment, you can read the full article and watch a short video at “Dancing Molecules” Successfully Repair Severe Spinal Cord Injuries. You can also read the full study at Bioactive Scaffolds with Enhanced Supramolecular Motion Promote Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury.