Light and drug delivery coupled with biomaterials to improve motor function after spinal cord injury in animal models

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating condition with no available cure directly affecting ~80,000 Canadians. The major challenges to overcome include: i) the limited spontaneous regeneration of nerve fibers (axons) after the injury; ii) scar tissue formation at the injury site (lesion), which inhibits the growth of axons; and iii) the difficulty in guiding axons to grow across the lesion. The present work proposes a novel solution that combines optical stimulation technology and biomaterials to promote axonal growth, inhibit the formation of scar tissue using targeted drug delivery, and guide growing axons across the lesion. My team has developed fully implantable multifunctional neural probes for the delivery of both light and drugs to the spinal cord injury site as well as biomaterials to guide the growth to axons across the lesion. The MSFHR Scholar Program would support our work to integrate these strategies and create a therapy that helps us understand the combined effects of light stimulation, drug delivery, and axon guidance on motor function recovery after SCI in animal models. The outcomes will support treatment development for SCI based on a better mechanistic understanding of regeneration.