NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A polymer hydrogel has the ability to enhance functional recovery to some degree, and tissue reconstruction, in a rat model of chronic spinal cord injury (SCI), investigators report.
NeuroGel is a water-saturated cross-linked hydrophilic copolymer of N-2-(hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide which contains interconnected pores and has viscoelastic properties
Dr. Stיphane Woerly, of Organogel Canada Ltיe in Quebec City, Canada, and colleagues induced a compression injury of the ventral spine in 16 adult rats. As reported in the December 15th issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research, 14 weeks later the rats exhibited maximal deficit. NeuroGel implants were placed in the injured area of eight rats, seven of which were placed in an enriched environment with other animals and exercise equipment.
The Basso, Beattie & Bresnahan (BBB) Locomotor Rating Scale improved significantly from 4.5 before implant placement to 5.44 at approximate 5 to 7 months post-implantation (p < 0.01) in those in the enriched environment. The post-treatment BBB scores were significantly different between the controls and the implanted animals (p = 0.02). However, Combined Behavioral Scores showed no improvement.
Seven months after the reconstructive surgery, neural tissue that included myelinated axons and dendro-dendritic contacts had formed within the polymer gel. Wallerian degeneration was inhibited compared to the control animals.
While the functional improvements seen were small, "In a person afflicted with SCI these changes could make a big difference in quality of life," Dr. Woerly and colleagues write. Greater joint mobility could ease the tasks of caregivers, allow the patient to be placed in a wheelchair, and permit physical therapy designed to develop muscular strength.
J Neurosci Res 2001;66:1187-1197.