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Early Promise for Neuro-Spinal Scaffold, a New Paralysis Treatment 

May 24, 2017


Four months ago, Roger, a 55-year-old construction worker from Mooresville, N.C., fell out of a deer stand and was left with a damaged spinal cord and no sensation from the middle of his chest down. Patients with his condition typically have less than a 1-in-20 chance of recovering any feeling in or control over the paralyzed areas. A new kind of implant aims to change that.

At Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, Roger, who doesn’t want to disclose his last name to protect his privacy, allowed doctors to perform an experimental procedure that involved cutting directly into his spinal cord to insert a sort of bridge for surviving nerve cells. Within a month, he regained feeling in his abdomen, some feeling in his legs, and some bladder control. While he’s not walking, he says he’s determined to get there and is getting leg braces so he can move with a walker.


Roger was the third patient to receive the implant, made by InVivo Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass., and the second with markedly improved bodily function. The chance of that happening was below 1 percent, according to InVivo Chief Executive Officer Mark Perrin, and it’s welcome news for the 8,000 Americans who suffer spinal cord-related paralysis each year.

Conventional treatment focuses on repairing a fractured spine with rods and screws, but it doesn’t address the spinal cord itself, which relays electrical impulses from the brain to the body. Imaging studies show that cell death in the spinal cord generally spreads even as patients recover. InVivo’s device, called the neuro-spinal scaffold, is a tiny cylindrical implant made of biodegradable plastic fibers. It supports nerve cells like a trellis, directing their growth where needed.

“You’re not just trying to stabilize the spine, but do something helpful directly at the area of the injury,” says Dom Coric, chief of neurosurgery at Carolinas Medical Center, who’s working with InVivo. “If we can preserve those cells, maybe we’ll get some function back.” The implant dissolves over several weeks, he says.

InVivo’s scaffold emerged from the MIT lab of Bob Langer, a biomedical engineering professor who’s founded some two dozen companies. More than a decade ago, Erin Lavik created a prototype scaffold for her MIT graduate thesis. As detailed in a breakthrough study she published with Langer in 2002, Lavik’s device, seeded with stem cells, helped paralyzed rats walk again. Later tests on rodents and monkeys proved similarly encouraging. (So far, human tests haven’t included stem cells.) Lavik is now a biomedical engineering professor at Case Western Reserve University.

Read Full Article – Source: Early Promise for Neuro-Spinal Scaffold, a New Paralysis Treatment – Bloomberg

Author – Michelle Cortez

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