Researchers at the University of British Columbia are leading an international effort to develop a new way to treat spinal cord injuries which they hope will lead to increased motor function and a better quality of life for patients.
They’re looking at the use of biomaterials, or soft gels, to repair the gap that’s created when a person’s spine is injured.
The high-tech gel would be injected into the site of the injury, which can be a few centimetres wide, and conform to the shape of the area while acting as a bridge for growing nerve fibres.
Canada research chair in spinal cord injury and UBC orthopaedics professor Dr. Brian Kwon said spine surgeons are treating newly paralyzed patients every week in Vancouver and across the country.
“It’s one of the hardest things we do as spine surgeons, is to talk to patients that have had a spinal cord injury about the fact that we really don’t have treatments to improve their neurological function,” he said. “We want a therapy that has the least chance of causing any damage, because these are patients that have had a catastrophic injury in the first place. We want to make it as safe as possible.”