Treating spinal cord injury with nanotechnology

Treating spinal cord injury with nanotechnology

Current capabilities in nanotechnology not only promise better vehicles for drug delivery, but also provide materials nanoengineered to promote specific tissue healing. From a Northwestern University press release (credit “Promising new nanotechnology for spinal cord injury“:

A spinal cord injury often leads to permanent paralysis and loss of sensation below the site of the injury because the damaged nerve fibers can’t regenerate. The nerve fibers or axons have the capacity to grow again, but don’t because they’re blocked by scar tissue that develops around the injury.

Northwestern University researchers have shown that a new nano-engineered gel inhibits the formation of scar tissue at the injury site and enables the severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow. The gel is injected as a liquid into the spinal cord and self-assembles into a scaffold that supports the new nerve fibers as they grow up and down the spinal cord, penetrating the site of the injury.

When the gel was injected into mice with a spinal cord injury, after six weeks the animals had a greatly enhanced ability to use their hind legs and walk.

…”We are very excited about this,” said lead author John Kessler, M.D., Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “We can inject this without damaging the tissue. It has great potential for treating human beings.”

…”We designed our self-assembling nanostructures — the building blocks of the gel — to promote neuron growth,” said co-author Samuel I. Stupp, Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, and Medicine and director of Northwestern’s Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine. “To actually see the regeneration of axons in the spinal cord after injury is a fascinating outcome.”

…If the gel is approved for humans, a clinical trial could begin in several years.

“It’s a long way from helping a rodent to walk again and helping a human being walk again,” Kessler stressed again. “People should never lose sight of that. But this is still exciting because it gives us a new technology for treating spinal cord injury.”

The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience (abstract)

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  1. Julie Moore April 9, 2008 at 1:00 am - Reply

    Count me in as one of your subjects when it comes time to test. In the mean time put my dog on your waiting list & YAHOO! PTL!

  2. Daniel April 10, 2008 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    This is fantastic news. Very glad to hear it.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Robert Dinnigan April 11, 2008 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Sounds great but how long before its FDA appoved

  4. L. Keith Valentine. April 15, 2008 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    I am very excited to hear about this great discovery. I believe in creating a more controllable lifespan of nano-cells growth and stop-growth period verses nano-continuous growth period without conclusive evidence of non-harmful results. I see you believe Future. Keep up the good Work Ladies and Gentlemen.

  5. Infidel753 April 16, 2008 at 5:20 am - Reply

    It’s maddening that, after FDA approval, it could take years for clinical trials to even begin. These processes need to be speeded up — there are desperate people waiting for such technologies to become available for general use. Perhaps testing should be done in other countries where the bureaucratic delays are not so protracted.

  6. Gene Bedford April 27, 2008 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Those of us living as a SCI patient enjoy hearing about these discoveries. The problem lies with the FDA and all of the red tape involved to begin the clinical trials. Hopefully other countries like Germany will take the ball and run with it. I’m not opposed to heading over there for treatment. When you’re a 45 year old paraplegic you don’t have the luxury to wait on the US to climb aboard.

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