There is no cure for spinal cord injury (SCI). Although recent advances in medical knowledge and technology have greatly improved care and therapeutics for SCIs, no one has found a way to reverse the damage to the spinal cord when an injury occurs. (Learn more about the facts of SCI in our infographic.)
Now, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts is taking a big step forward in SCI research. The FDA recently approved the firm to perform a small-scale study on patients currently living with SCIs. They will be testing their high-tech “scaffolds”—small, sponge-like devices that will be implanted into subjects’ spinal cords. The scaffold is meant to stabilize a relatively new SCI, preventing the progressive increase in inflammation that can lead to further damage. For those with recent spinal cord injuries, this can mean maintained—or even regained—spinal cord function after injury.
This new study is a major milestone and the first of its kind—no other device meant to treat SCI has been approved for testing in humans. Although the research team is very excited about the prospect of potentially improving quality of life in SCI patients, they are also not looking to achieve a complete ‘cure’ of SCI. Their goal is to make small, incremental improvements in the lives of SCI patients, paving the way for more research and advancement. Eventually, the Cambridge firm plans to imbue their scaffolding material with medications and stem cells to further assist in the healing process.
Even seemingly small improvements in spinal cord function can make a huge difference in an SCI patient’s life. What are some steps you’ve taken to help improve the life of your patient or loved one?