Agnes Haggerty, Spinal Cord Repair Laboratory / University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA

Development of a laminin-based, a-cellular, injectable matrix for spinal cord repair

Funded in: 2012, 2013, 2014

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Spinal cord injury frequently results in a profound alteration of the tissue in which both fluid-filled cystic cavities as well as obstructive scar tissue are formed. The combined presence of these both physical and chemical barriers prevents the regeneration of injured axons. One way to limit or circumvent these barriers is to establish a so-called “bridge” between the healthy tissue that is found above and below the injury.

Preliminary data show that laminin polymers formed at an acidic pH (pH4) are able to stimulate the regrowth of adult neurons. After injection in an experimental spinal cord injury model this acidic laminin (aLam) was also able to improve motor function recovery. Based on these observations aLam was selected as candidate to form a matrix for spinal cord repair.

To develop the potential of aLam as a therapeutic the project will address these issues by:

  • investigating mechanisms of aLam-mediated axon growth and
  • examining how aLam affects spinal cord repair.

A laminin matrix will present several advantages. This molecule is already found within the spinal cord tissue, so it is a “natural” and safe polymer. It can be injected as a liquid, without any need to cut or damage the spinal tissue, and fill empty cavities to form an effective bridge and matrix for axonal regeneration.

If successful it will result in the creation of a therapeutic, laminin-based, a-cellular, injectable matrix for repair of the injured spinal cord.