On the research front we have confirmed exciting results produced earlier in 2023.

As spinal cord injury is a complex condition, it will be crucial to target the many different processes going on in the spinal cord in order to develop the most effective treatment, improving the likelihood of success.

We implanted different groups of rats with our subdural implant which sits directly on the spinal cord and used this to apply electric field stimulation directly to the injured cord.

Starting the day after the injury, one group received a daily 1-hour electrical stimulation treatment from electrodes positioned on either side of the injury. Treatment was administered 5 days per week for
12 weeks.
Rats treated with daily 1-hour electroceutical treatments showed significant improvement in recovery of hind limb function from week 6 onwards compared with non-treated controls (Fig. 1). Of interest, while the non-treated animals plateaued at week 5 the electric field treated rats continually improved.

Alongside our electric field treatments we have been developing ways to deliver medicines directly to the spinal cord, and pharmaceutical science approaches to sustain the delivery of these medicines over time. This means a single administration of medicine can be released slowly over days and weeks.

Svenja Meissner, a pharmacist and senior PhD candidate, has created a liquid growth factor loaded formulation that can be pushed through a syringe and catheter directly onto the spinal cord (Fig. 2). The formulation then takes the shape of the cord and as it warms to body temperature in turns into a gel. This gel stays in position where it slowly releases the medicine payload to the body.

“Alongside our electric field treatments we have been developing ways to deliver medicines directly to the spinal cord.”

Assoc. Prof. Darren Svirskis

Figure 1: Electric field treated spinal cord injured rats (thick green line) show significantly enhanced functional recovery compared with non-treated spinal cord injured rats (thick red line) from 6 weeks post-injury onwards. Note the thin lines indicate individual scores.

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of how an intrathecal catheter is used to deliver the hydrogel loaded with medicine directly onto the spinal cord.

Catwalk Magazine – December 2023
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