Design of an animal model for testing alginate tissue repair scaffolds in spinal cord injury
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Current treatments for spinal cord injury (SCI) are extremely limited due to the fact that the central nervous system lacks the intrinsic ability to regenerate, and constitutes a poor environment for regenerative axon growth. Nerve tissue engineering is an emerging field with the aim of repairing or creating new nerve tissues to promote functional recovery by using artificial tissue repair scaffolds. The design of a stable and consistent animal model of SCI is essential to study the effectiveness of scaffolds in promoting nervous system repair. In this study, a partial transection animal model was created with a three dimensional lesion at T8-T9 that disrupts axonal pathways unilaterally in the dorsal columns of the rat spinal cord. Alginate hydrogel scaffolds incorporating living Schwann cells were fabricated to evaluate the abilities of those scaffolds to foster axonal regeneration. The surgical technique was improved to provide better outcomes related to bleeding during surgery, weight control, neurological function and surgery duration. The survival rate of animals during the surgical procedure and post-surgery period was ultimately increased to 100%. Histology and immunohistochemistry results indicated that implanted alginate scaffolds may induce larger cavities and extenuate harmful inflammation responses, but that effect was ameliorated by inclusion of Schwann cells in the scaffold. However, neither plain alginate scaffolds nor scaffolds containing living Schwann cells were able to improve regeneration of identified axon tracts in the spinal dorsal columns. This research also employed a synchrotron based x-ray phase contrast imaging technique coupled with computed-tomography to visualize the low optical density structural features of scaffolds and spinal cord tissues in formaldehyde fixed specimens. The imaging results suggest that this is a promising method for analyzing the structure of tissue repair scaffolds within the spinal cord. This degree of structural characterization, potentially applicable to living tissue, is not afforded by other conventional image analysis techniques.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorChen, Xiongbiao; Schreyer, David J.
CommitteeKelly, Michael E.; Dust, William
Copyright DateMay 2015
Spinal cord injury