Treatment of a Spinal Cord Hemitransection Injury with Keratin Biomaterial Hydrogel Elicits Recovery and Tissue Repair
Fearing, Bailey V.
Van Dyke, Mark E.
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Medical care costs can reach an estimated value of $4 billion for spinal cord injuries (SCI) each year in the USA alone. With no viable treatment options available, care remains palliative and aims to minimize lifelong disabilities and complications, such as immobility, bladder and bowel dysfunction, breathing problems, and blood clots. Human hair keratin biomaterials have demonstrated efficacy in peripheral nerve injury models and were shown to improve conduction delay and increase axon number and density. In this study, a keratin hydrogel was tested in a central nervous system (CNS) application of spinal cord hemisection injury. Keratin-treated rats showed increased survival rates as well as a better functional recovery of gait properties and bladder function. Histological results demonstrated reduced glial scar formation with keratin treatment and suggested a greater degree of beneficial remodeling and cellular influx. The data provided in this pilot study suggest the possibility of using a keratin-based treatment for SCI and warrant further investigation.