Martin Oudega, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago, USA

A novel two-tiered combinatorial transplantation strategy

Funded in: 2021, 2022, 2023

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Problem: Outcome of Schwann cells transplantation remains limited
Target: Strategy creating vascularized tissue and introducing Schwann cells
Goal: New cell transplantation approaches for cervical spinal cord contusion

Transplantation of Schwann cells into the contused spinal cord elicits repair of damaged nervous tissue and recovery of lost function, but the overall outcomes remain limited. One problem with cell transplantation approaches is the rapid loss of the injected cells in the injury site, which limits their repair effects.

Recently, the research team showed that a hyaluronic acid hydrogel injected into a spinal cord contusion results in formation of a vascularized tissue. This enables them to investigate to what degree Schwann cell transplant-mediated repair of the contused spinal cord is limited by the hostile injury milieu.

To test this, the research group proposes to study spinal cord repair using a novel, paradigm-shifting, two-tiered transplantation strategy that first creates vascularized tissue in the injury site and second introduces Schwann cells.

They expect that the results of their proposed studies will:
1) Enhance our understanding of the repair effects of the two-tiered transplantation approach
2) Support determining the clinical window of opportunity of the approach
3) Determine the effects of the injury treated with the hyaluronic acid hydrogel on the repair efficacy of the Schwann cells.

The new two-tiered transplantation strategy may have significant implications on cell transplantation approaches for repair of the injured spinal cord.