Advances in Spinal Cord Repair Techniques

Iván Sosa, Onix Reyes, Damién P. Kuffler


Daily US accidents result annually in over 20,000 cases of traumatic spinal cord injury associated with complete and permanent paraplegias and quadriplegias frequently associated chronic pain. This amounts to new annual health care a costs of $3.2 billion, and a total annual cost for all such individuals in the US of $96 billion. Tens of thousands of additional people suffer lesser degrees of permanent debilitating lost spinal cord function. To help these people recover neurological functions, and simultaneously reduce the enormous suffering, and the associated medical expenses, requires developing techniques that induce the regeneration of lesioned adult human spinal cord axons. A number of techniques lead to varying degrees of axon regeneration and neurological recovery in the rat, but the recovery is invariably limited. While other approaches show potential, they have not led reliable neurological recovery. Most spinal cord repair techniques cannot be applied clinically because they require materials that are not FDA-approved. However, several FDA-approved materials are available that hold great promise for inducing axon regeneration, especially when used simultaneously. Here we review efforts to induce the regeneration of spinal cord axons, how what is known about promoting regeneration of axons across peripheral nerve gaps may be applied to repairing spinal cord lesions, and finally, how several readily available materials may induce axons to regenerate in the spinal cord and restore neurological function.

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