Functional recovery following traumatic spinal cord injury mediated by a unique polymer scaffold seeded with neural stem cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Mar 5;99(5):3024-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.052678899. Epub 2002 Feb 26.


To better direct repair following spinal cord injury (SCI), we designed an implant modeled after the intact spinal cord consisting of a multicomponent polymer scaffold seeded with neural stem cells. Implantation of the scaffold-neural stem cells unit into an adult rat hemisection model of SCI promoted long-term improvement in function (persistent for 1 year in some animals) relative to a lesion-control group. At 70 days postinjury, animals implanted with scaffold-plus-cells exhibited coordinated, weight-bearing hindlimb stepping. Histology and immunocytochemical analysis suggested that this recovery might be attributable partly to a reduction in tissue loss from secondary injury processes as well as in diminished glial scarring. Tract tracing demonstrated corticospinal tract fibers passing through the injury epicenter to the caudal cord, a phenomenon not present in untreated groups. Together with evidence of enhanced local GAP-43 expression not seen in controls, these findings suggest a possible regeneration component. These results may suggest a new approach to SCI and, more broadly, may serve as a prototype for multidisciplinary strategies against complex neurological problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / chemistry
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Female
  • GAP-43 Protein / analysis
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Mice
  • Nerve Fibers / chemistry
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neurofilament Proteins / analysis
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / transplantation*
  • Polymers
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / chemistry
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries
  • Wounds and Injuries


  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Polymers
  • neurofilament protein H