Feb. 8, 2022 CBN News Jerusalem Emily Jones
JERUSALEM, Israel – For the first time in history, Israeli scientists have engineered spinal cord implants that could potentially be used one day to treat paralyzed patients.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University’s Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology extracted fat tissue used genetic engineering to transform it into stem cells. These stem cells were then used to build 3D models of spinal cord tissue that could be implanted into animal models in the laboratory.
“Our technology is based on taking a small biopsy of belly fat tissue from the patient. This tissue, like all tissues in our body, consists of cells together with an extracellular matrix (comprising substances like collagens and sugars). After separating the cells from the extracellular matrix we used genetic engineering to reprogram the cells, reverting them to a state that resembles embryonic stem cells – namely cells capable of becoming any type of cell in the body,” Prof. Tal Dvir said in a statement.
“From the extracellular matrix we produced a personalized hydrogel, that would evoke no immune response or rejection after implantation. We then encapsulated the stem cells in the hydrogel and in a process that mimics the embryonic development of the spinal cord we turned the cells into 3D implants of neuronal networks containing motor neurons,” Prof. Dvir said.
The scientists then put the implants into two groups of animals – those who had recently been paralyzed and one that suffered from chronic paralysis. They found that 100% of the recently paralyzed animals regained their ability to walk, while 80% of the chronically paralyzed were able to walk again.
“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,” said Prof. Dvir.
The researchers hope to replicate similar results in humans in a few years.
“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,” said Prof. 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 paralyzed patients, we have good reason to expect relatively rapid approval of our technology.”
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