Researchers at Northwestern University have tested a treatment on paralyzed mice that holds great promise for reversal serious spinal injuries. A single injection of what the researchers call “dancing molecules” reversed the paralysis of the rodent patients, allowing them to walk again.
In the words of Samuel I. Stupp, a professor of materials science at Northwestern, “[Our] body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant capacity to repair itself after injury or after the onset of a degenerative disease.” That is why an therapeutic advance to create that capacity is so important. Stupp also said, “We are going straight to the FDA to start the process of getting this new therapy approved for use in human patients.”
The key to Stupp’s approach is a complex network of nanofibers that mimics the extracellular matrix of the spinal cord itself.
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At present nearly 300,000 people in the U.S. live with a spinal cord injury. Fewer than 3% of these ever recover even basic physical functions. There are constant re-hospitalizations for many of them, year after year after the initial injury, costing millions of dollars in lifetime healthcare costs per patient.