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Spinal cord injury patients may benefit from new scaffold design

A spinal cord injury in West Virginia has the potential to be devastating since damaged nerves cannot regenerate by themselves. This usually results in permanent impairment. However, researchers have been exploring methods of encouraging regrowth following spinal cord injury.

So far, no treatments have been developed for restoring nerve function. Still, researchers think that if nerves are encouraged to regrow beyond a spinal cord injury site, a patient may be able to avoid permanent disability. One strategy that may prove beneficial is to implant biomaterial scaffolds in the injury site. These scaffolds can support the growth of new tissue, but they usually are unable to direct the regrowth beyond the injury location since controlling the nerve growth's direction is challenging. In addition, scars may develop around the implant, thus blocking the nerves.

Some researchers have been working on designing a brand new type of scaffold, one that may help nerve cells to regrow and thus restore function. They found that scaffolds laced with a protein called neurotrophin-3 were able to encourage nerve growth successfully in rats with spinal cord injuries. The rats with these scaffolds appeared to regain more motor function compared with the rats that did not receive this treatment.

The newly developed scaffold design might play a role in techniques for regenerating nerves in the future. It is particularly promising for those with spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, until a cure is found for this type of injury, its sufferers may experience a decreased quality of life and reduced function. Individuals who suffer injuries to their spinal cords as a result of the negligence of other individuals retain the right to file personal injury claims against these other individuals. Awarded damages in such a case in West Virginia may help a spinal injury patient to cover his or her medical costs and other losses tied to the injury.

Source: phys.org, "Hydrogel scaffold helps repair injured spinal cord", July 20, 2016

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