Researchers in Israel have engineered human spinal cord implants in a breakthrough that could lead to paralysed people being able to walk again within a few years.
In a world-first, the team from Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University, developed 3D spinal cord tissues and implanted them in lab models, achieving an ‘80% success rate in restoring walking abilities’.
Professor Tal Dvir, who led the study, said: “The model animals underwent a rapid rehabilitation process, at the end of which they could walk quite well. This is the first instance in the world in which implanted engineered human tissues have generated recovery in an animal model for long-term chronic paralysis – which is the most relevant model for paralysis treatments in humans. There are millions of people around the world who are paralysed due to spinal injury, and there is still no effective treatment for their condition. Individuals injured at a very young age are destined to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives, bearing all the social, financial, and health-related costs of paralysis. Our goal is to produce personalised spinal cord implants for every paralysed person, enabling regeneration of the damaged tissue with no risk of rejection.”
To accelerate the process of making these implants available to people as fast as possible the professor, along with leading industry partners, have set up a company called Matricelf.
“We hope to reach the stage of clinical trials in humans within the next few years, and ultimately get these patients back on their feet,” added Professor Dvir. “The company’s preclinical program has already been discussed with the FDA. Since we are proposing an advanced technology in regenerative medicine, and since at present there is no alternative for paralysed patients, we have good reason to expect relatively rapid approval of our technology.”