Breakthrough for Spinal Cord Injuries
Over the past year, Samuel Stupp, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University, has developed a biomaterial that has shown promising results in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. This is an exciting breakthrough, as there has been little available in the way of treatment beyond physical therapy for the nearly 300,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries.
Stupp’s material is made from synthetic or natural materials and is designed for use in living systems. It can send signals to cells, instructing them to carry out specific tasks needed for tissue regeneration and healing. When tested on mice, the material enabled them to recover the ability to walk after suffering spinal cord injuries. This is a significant advancement, as repairing parts of the body that do not regenerate on their own is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of materials science, biology, chemistry, and the intricate networks that govern healing and regrowth.
Stupp and his team have been working on this material for over a decade, trying to create new materials that could stimulate robust regeneration in different parts of the body. When he saw the results of the therapy, he was surprised and excited. When he published his research in the journal Science in November 2021, he received an overwhelming response, with many people asking when clinical trials would be available.
Stupp’s spinal cord therapy is just one example of the potential uses of biomaterials. These materials can also be used in permanent implants, drug delivery systems, and as scaffolds for tissue regeneration. The versatility of biomaterials makes them an exciting area of research, with the potential to improve the lives of many people suffering from a range of conditions.
Stupp is now planning to begin clinical trials in humans, with the hope that the material could be used to treat people suffering from spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While it will be some time before the therapy is available to the general public, the promising results seen in mice give hope that it could be a game-changer for those living with these debilitating conditions.
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