Scientists are creating spinal cord implants that could help paralyzed people walk

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When I was a kid, I fantasized about a future in which science would have solved the whole world’s health problems. But like the jet pack that I also assumed I would have by now, that future just hasn’t materialized. Still, science is making some amazing progress in helping people with spinal cord injuries — a field that’s historically been very challenging forge forward in. Scientists are now testing a spinal cord implant in mice that may help people who are paralyzed walk again.

A paper released this morning in the journal Advanced Science detailed the development of the technology and laid out plans for upcoming clinical trials. Scientists used human tissue samples in a process that mimics the development of the spinal cord in embryos to create 3D implants. This is how it works: Scientists take the human tissue samples, use a process that stimulates them to become embryonic stem cells, and then uses those stem cells to create what is essentially a personalized implant made out of an individual’s own cells.

With this technology, scientists can eventually create personalized implants for people who need them, which they hope will reduce implant rejection. This is a really big deal. Apparently, one of the major obstacles scientists — and patients — have faced in their attempts to repair damaged spinal cords is the body’s natural tendency to reject anything foreign. Since these implants can be created out of an individual’s own cells, rejection becomes a lot less likely.


Spinal cord implants



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