, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 445-459

Biomaterials for spinal cord repair

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Abstract

Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in permanent loss of function leading to often devastating personal, economic and social problems. A contributing factor to the permanence of SCI is that damaged axons do not regenerate, which prevents the re-establishment of axonal circuits involved in function. Many groups are working to develop treatments that address the lack of axon regeneration after SCI. The emergence of biomaterials for regeneration and increased collaboration between engineers, basic and translational scientists, and clinicians hold promise for the development of effective therapies for SCI. A plethora of biomaterials is available and has been tested in various models of SCI. Considering the clinical relevance of contusion injuries, we primarily focus on polymers that meet the specific criteria for addressing this type of injury. Biomaterials may provide structural support and/or serve as a delivery vehicle for factors to arrest growth inhibition and promote axonal growth. Designing materials to address the specific needs of the damaged central nervous system is crucial and possible with current technology. Here, we review the most prominent materials, their optimal characteristics, and their potential roles in repairing and regenerating damaged axons following SCi.