Drug delivery, cell-based therapies, and tissue engineering approaches for spinal cord injury

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Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in devastating neurological and pathological consequences, causing major dysfunction to the motor, sensory, and autonomic systems. The primary traumatic injury to the spinal cord triggers a cascade of acute and chronic degenerative events, leading to further secondary injury. Many therapeutic strategies have been developed to potentially intervene in these progressive neurodegenerative events and minimize secondary damage to the spinal cord. Additionally, significant efforts have been directed toward regenerative therapies that may facilitate neuronal repair and establish connectivity across the injury site. Despite the promise that these approaches have shown in preclinical animal models of SCI, challenges with respect to successful clinical translation still remain. The factors that could have contributed to failure include important biologic and physiologic differences between the preclinical models and the human condition, study designs that do not mirror clinical reality, discrepancies in dosing and the timing of therapeutic interventions, and dose-limiting toxicity. With a better understanding of the pathobiology of events following acute SCI, developing integrated approaches aimed at preventing secondary damage and also facilitating neuroregenerative recovery is possible and hopefully will lead to effective treatments for this devastating injury. The focus of this review is to highlight the progress that has been made in drug therapies and delivery systems, and also cell-based and tissue engineering approaches for SCI.

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