Crab cocktail as therapy?

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The repair of a traumatic spinal cord injury comes with great difficulties, because the nerve tissue cannot simply form anew. As a result, a cavity is created, surrounded by a glial scar and this blocks the regeneration.

Newly formed bridge
A research team from Paris, led by Dr. Fathia Nothias now implanted a biomaterial to bridge the resulting gap in the spinal cord tissue. Its main component is the molecule chitosan, which is found in the hard shell of crustaceans, e.g. Lobsters or crabs.
The experiment was exciting: the chitosan scaffold helped to restore the spinal cord tissue and the vascular system shortly after the injury. At the same time, it reduced scarring. Moreover, this newly formed bridge stimulated the growth of numerous injured axons, even beyond the injury. The newly regenerated nerve fibers were functional and myelinated. Interestingly, the inflammation could also be influenced, which contributed to tissue repair. Most impressive, however, is that restoring the structure after spinal cord injury helped to regain a long-lasting movement function.

More good news
As a natural molecule, chitosan is free from side effects. It is effectively biodegradable and non-toxic to the surrounding tissue. Studies have shown that it does not lead to tumor formation, can reduce pain and prevent bleeding. In addition, it inhibits the growth of bacteria and it is an effective antioxidant. It is easily prepared by mixing it with water, is injectable into the site of injury with a simple syringe and is suitable for combination with other procedures.

How are things going on?
The chitosan scaffold is effective in repairing the tissue and is a promising new approach to the treatment of spinal cord injury. These early results must now be repeated and confirmed, but they could pave the way for a new strategy for functional regeneration for cross-sectional patients.

This work was supported by Wings for Life. Learn more about the project here. 

Source: “Physical chitosan microhydrogels as scaffolds for spinal cord injury restoration and axon regeneration”. Chedly J, Soares S, Montembault A, von Boxberg Y, Veron-Ravaille M, Mouffle C, Benassy MN, Taxi J, David L, Nothias F. Biomaterials, September, 2017.