Anthony J. Windebank, M.D., Neurology, and Christopher H. Evans, Ph.D., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, discuss developments regarding regenerative medicine in the nervous system at the Fourth Annual Symposium on Regenerative Rehabilitation, hosted by Mayo Clinic in 2015.
After a decade's work on spinal cord repair, Dr. Windebank and colleagues are actually restoring function via a tissue engineering approach. Using rat models and collaborating with Mayo Clinic colleagues, Dr. Windebank's team has constructed biodegradable hydrogel scaffolds, which have mechanical properties similar to the spinal cord, to support cells put into injured spinal cords.
Microspheres that release drugs that prevent a negative foreign body reaction also are incorporated into the scaffolds, as well as cells that secrete different neurotrophic growth factors. The result is the beginning of restoration of function. Next steps include collaboration to incorporate electrical stimulation and rehabilitative strategies.