Spinal cord-like tissue transplantation helps paralyzed rats regain motor function

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Dai Jianwu, a researcher at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGDB, CAS), and Yannan Zhao, a young researcher, have made a new progress in the study of in vitro fabrication of human spinal cord tissues, which, when transplanted, help to restore motor functions in paralyzed rats. The related study was recently published in Science Advances.




Under the support of "Organ Reconstruction and Fabrication" of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Dai Jianwu's team has carried out in vitro fabrication of spinal cord tissues based on NeuroRegen scaffolds. In the previous work, the team conducted a systematic study on the selection of seed cells for spinal cord fabrication, and established a three-dimensional culture method for clinical-grade human spinal cord-derived neural stem cells and astrocytes. Recently, the team has fabricated human spinal cord tissues with drug-targeting guidance function through material-cell covalent coupling technology.



Schematic diagram of covalent coupling of biomaterials and cells to construct spinal cord-like tissues


In the new study, the team utilized metabolic labeling on the surface of neural stem cells and chemical modification of the scaffold material to achieve covalent binding of the cells to the material, which not only promotes the differentiation of stem cells to neurons, but also facilitates the formation of longitudinally parallel aligned bionic spinal cord structures guided by the topological morphology of the surface of the material. The team wrapped a collagen sleeve loaded with astrocytes around the periphery of the spinal cord-like tissue to improve the microenvironment of the spinal cord tissue transplantation by using the nutrient-supporting effect of astrocytes, and the surface-modified astrocytes can also specifically recognize carriers containing reactive oxygen species scavenging drugs that are injected into the bloodstream. The team transplanted these types of spinal cord tissues into the site of total transection spinal cord injury in rats, and found that they significantly improved the colonization, survival and differentiation of exogenous cells in the injured area, and promoted the recovery of motor function in rats.

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