Oct. 30, 2017

Degenerative Medicine Seminar informs College of Engineering of new hope of spinal injury repair

Students and any interested persons had the opportunity to hear new ways of rebuilding the human spinal cord in new ways in a seminar called Regenerative Medicine Approaches for the Central Nervous System.

Nic Leipzig, Ph.D., presented his lab work and research methods to many curious engineering students at Fenn Hall on Oct. 19th. Leipzig, part of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department at the University of Akron, spoke about several areas spinal cord work that included creating artificial ways of growth stimulation, and tissue engineering.

According to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, there are about 300,000 people dealing with spinal cord injuries. Each year, doctors see about 12,000 new cases each year. Leipzig points out one of the most staggering statistics dealing with injuries that can sometimes exceed the cost of $4 million. He emphasizes the fact that damage to the spinal cord can reduce your life expectancy drastically.

“That’s especially difficult when we think about who this typically affects, which are usually males around 20 years of age,” Leipzig said.

There are more than one type injuries, which include contusions where the bone hinges on the spine, almost crushing it. Leipzig also mentions trans-section injuries which are more difficult to repair because of cutting and re-connecting movements. Replacing the lost connections, Leipzig points out, is the main focus of his research.

“There is no acceptable way to re-generate this lost tissue,” said Leipzig, referring to the current methods of spinal repair.

Dr. Leipzig went on to discuss possible pathways to re-generation material to strengthen the human spinal cord in detail. One, involving post-traumatic treatment that would hopefully prevent inflammation in the spine, which reduces the scarring response. The second, being chronic treatment phases which entail the process of blocking cells and molecules that could inhibit regrowth, and the replacement of cell populations.


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