Tissue loss significantly reduces the potential for functional recovery after spinal cord injury. We previously showed that implantation of porous scaffolds composed of a biodegradable and biocompatible block copolymer of Poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid and Poly-l-lysine improves functional recovery and reduces spinal cord tissue injury after spinal cord hemisection injury in rats. Here, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of porous scaffolds in non-human Old-World primates (Chlorocebus sabaeus) after a partial and complete lateral hemisection of the thoracic spinal cord. Detailed analyses of kinematics and muscle activity revealed that by twelve weeks after injury fully hemisected monkeys implanted with scaffolds exhibited significantly improved recovery of locomotion compared to non-implanted control animals. Twelve weeks after injury, histological analysis demonstrated that the spinal cords of monkeys with a hemisection injury implanted with scaffolds underwent appositional healing characterized by a significant increase in remodeled tissue in the region of the hemisection compared to non-implanted controls. The number of glial fibrillary acidic protein immunopositive astrocytes was diminished within the inner regions of the remodeled tissue layer in treated animals. Activated macrophage and microglia were present diffusely throughout the remodeled tissue and concentrated at the interface between the preserved spinal cord tissue and the remodeled tissue layer. Numerous unphosphorylated neurofilament H and neuronal growth associated protein positive fibers and myelin basic protein positive cells may indicate neural sprouting inside the remodeled tissue layer of treated monkeys. These results support the safety and efficacy of polymer scaffolds in a primate model of acute spinal cord injury. A device substantially similar to the device described here is the subject of an ongoing human clinical trial.
Keywords: Functional improvement; Polymeric scaffolds; Primates; Spinal cord injury; Tissue engineering; Tissue remodeling.
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