Researchers at Tel Aviv University have created the first human spinal cord implants to treat paralysis.
- Researchers from Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology created functional human spinal cord tissues from human cells and placed them in lab models with chronic paralysis. They were able to restore walking ability in 80% of the cases.
- The breakthrough technology uses tissue from patients to create a functioning spinal cord implant. It is based on a process replicating the spinal column’s development in embryos.
- Researchers: “Our goal over the next few years is to engineer personalized spinal cord implants to repair tissue injured from injury without the risk for implant rejection.”
Researchers from the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, Tel Aviv University, have created 3D human spinal cord tissues and implanted them into a lab model of chronic paralysis. This is the first time this has been done in the world. These results were very encouraging, with an approximate 80% success rate in restoring walking ability. The next step in the research is clinical trials with human patients. The researchers hope to implant the engineered tissues in paralyzed patients within a few years, allowing them to get up and walk again. Prof. Tal Dvir’s research group conducted this groundbreaking research at the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology and the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research. It was also carried out at the Department of Biomedical Engineering of Tel Aviv University. Prof. Dvir’s laboratory includes Dr. Reuven Edri and Lior Wertheim, a Ph.D. student, and Dr. YonaGoldshmit, a doctoral student. The Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research also contributed, as did Prof. Irit GatViks and Prof. Yaniv Assaf, both from Tel Aviv University. Dr. Angela Ruban, from the Steyer School of Health Professions.
The study’s results were published in the prestigious scientific journal Science. Advanced Science Our technology relies on taking small samples of the patient’s belly fat tissue. Like all tissues, this tissue is composed of cells and an extracellular matrix, which includes substances such as sugars and collagen. After separating cells from the extracellular matrix, genetic engineering was used to reprogram cells. This allowed them to return to an embryonic stem cell state. These cells are capable of becoming any cell in the body. We created a customized hydrogel from the extracellular matrix, which would not elicit any immune response or rejection following implantation. The stem cells were then enclosed in the hydrogel, and the process mimicked the embryonic development in the spinal cord. We made 3D implants from the neuronal networks that contained motor neurons. The implants of the human spinal cord were then placed in lab models. They were divided into two categories: those who had recently been paralyzed (the short-term model) and those who had been paralyzed over a prolonged period (the long-term model). After the implantation, all lab models with chronic paralysis and 100% with acute paralysis could walk again.
After a quick rehabilitation, the model animals were able to walk again. This is the first time implanted human tissues have resulted in a recovery in an animal model of long-term chronic paralysis. It is also the most applicable model for paralysis treatments in humans. Millions of people are paralyzed from spinal injuries, and there is no effective treatment. Paralysis is a condition that causes paralysis in young people. Our goal is to create personalized spinal cord implants that paralyzed people can use. This will allow the regeneration of damaged tissue without risk of rejection.
Matricelf, a new online portal for organ engineering, was founded by Prof. Dvir and industry partners in 2019. To make spinal cord implants commercially accessible for paralysis patients, the company follows Prof. Dvir’s method.