Repair strategies for traumatic spinal cord injury, with special emphasis on novel biomaterial-based approaches.
Soares S, von Boxberg Y, Nothias F
As a part of the central nervous system (CNS), the adult mammalian spinal cord displays only very poor ability for self-repair in response to traumatic lesions, which mostly lead to more or less severe, life-long disability. While even adult CNS neurons have a certain plastic potential, their intrinsic regenerative capacity highly varies among different neuronal populations and in the end, regeneration is almost completely inhibited due to extrinsic factors such as glial scar and cystic cavity formation, excessive and persistent inflammation, presence of various inhibitory molecules, and absence of trophic support and of a growth-supportive extracellular matrix structure. In recent years, a number of experimental animal models have been developed to overcome these obstacles. Since all those studies based on a single approach have yielded only relatively modest functional recovery, it is now consensus that different therapeutic approaches will have to be combined to synergistically overcome the multiple barriers to CNS regeneration, especially in humans. In this review, we particularly emphasize the hope raised by the development of novel, implantable biomaterials that should favor the reconstruction of the damaged nervous tissue, and ultimately allow for functional recovery of sensorimotor functions. Since human spinal cord injury pathology depends on the vertebral level and the severity of the traumatic impact, and since the timing of application of the different therapeutic approaches appears very important, we argue that every case will necessitate individual evaluation, and specific adaptation of therapeutic strategies.