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12 - 06 - 2018

Repairing damage to the spinal cord

A hydrogel in the rat recreates the control of breathing after damage to the spinal cord


The loss of respiratory autonomy is one of the most serious consequences of neck injuries (traffic accidents, sports accidents). It imposes lifelong use of assisted breathing.


Researchers hypothesized that BDNF, a natural neurostimulant, could repair the nerve connections that control the activity of the diaphragm and thus respiration.


But it requires that this substance is administered locally, at a specific concentration and period defined under penalty of inefficiency or unacceptable side effects. For this purpose they have developed a hydrogel intended to be administered intrathecally, that is to say in contact with the spinal cord.


To validate the effectiveness of this hydrogel, they used a model of spinal cord lesion in rats that leads to impaired respiratory function.


The administration of the hydrogel on these animals allowed a very good maintenance of the activity of the diaphragm and therefore breathing.


Tissue examination showed that the hydrogel:

      - preserves the connection of diaphragm muscles with motor neurons

      - promotes the repair of the connection of the marrow with the control center of breathing in the brain.




This study has therefore shown in animal models, that the local administration of BDNF as a hydrogel allowed the preservation of respiratory function following a medullary attack. It also helped specify the mode of action of this hydrogel.


Further studies will be undertaken to prepare the use of this hydrogel in humans.