Reverse paralysis? Northwestern research could benefit patients with severe spinal cord injuries

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Northwestern University researchers have developed a new method they say can reverse paralysis and repair tissue after severe spinal cord injuries.

Video taken during the study shows a mouse with a spinal cord injury. It's partially paralyzed and can't move its hind legs.

But after a new injectable therapy created by Northwestern University researchers, it can use its back legs again.

"We wanted to develop a therapy that would prevent paralysis after these severe injuries," said Professor Samuel Stupp, Northwestern University Medicine and Biomedical Engineering.

Stupp said the therapy uses small synthetic fibers to promote spinal cord healing with molecules that move.

"Biology is not static. It's very dynamic. Things move around a lot, and so, if you're the therapy, you have to move too," he said.

Stupp said these so called "dancing molecules" are a breakthrough and are able to better connect with the spinal cord cells they're trying to heal with great success, bringing mobility back to injured mice.

"It mimics the natural tissue and we have installed just the right signals we need for repair," he said.

Professor Stupp said these results are groundbreaking and he plans to approach the FDA as early as next year about approving clinical trials in humans. But, that also means we're years away from seeing this therapy actually used human spinal cord injury patients.

"We are hoping the FDA will work with us to accelerate the process," Stupp said.
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