AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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A Hydrogel Restores Breathing After Spinal Cord Injury in Animal Models

Lab tests demonstrate that a hydrogel could help repair damaged spinal nerves that control breathing, an advance that could eventually be developed into new patient treatment.

 

One of the most severe outcomes of spinal cord injury from car accidents, sports impacts, or other neck trauma, is losing the ability to control breathing, with patients often requiring artificial ventilation for the rest of their lives. Researchers at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) recently tested a hydrogel that releases a nerve-protecting agent at the site of injury, restoring independent breathing in rat models.

“The hydrogel can deliver a neuron-stimulating agent that repairs a critical aspect of spinal cord damage, while avoiding systemic side effects of the agent,” said co-senior researcher Angelo Lepore, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience in the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Jefferson. “We looked specifically at the bundle of nerves that control breathing. Our preliminary work in animal models could lead to new treatments in the future for patients suffering from respiratory compromise, and may also apply to restoring other functions affected by the injury.” 

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