Skip to content Skip to navigation

Sustained release of growth factors from bioengineered synthetic "cells" for treating spinal cord injury

Stanford Neurosciences Institute, Laura Marquardt

 Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating condition that affects approximately 17,000 Americans each year. SCI primarily affects young adults between the ages of 16 and 30, which leads to lifelong medical and financial burdens. Despite improvements in emergent medical care in the last 30 years, SCI still results in a decreased quality-of-life and lower life expectancy for patients. This is due in part to the lack of a regenerative-based therapeutic approach to treating SCI in the clinic. Recent efforts have investigated the use of cell-based therapies to encourage regeneration of host tissue after injury through the release of growth factors; however, these therapies are greatly limited due to poor cell survival, retention, and function. Therefore, I propose an alternative strategy to encourage host tissue regeneration through the delivery of synthetic “cells” that have been bioengineered to withstand injection forces that can cause cell death, as well as release important growth factors necessary for regeneration in a controlled manner. The first aim of this proposal will be to synthesize and characterize the designed synthetic “cells” to be used for growth factor release. The second aim is to both determine the release profile of loaded growth factors from the synthetic “cells”, as well as use an in vitro screening assay to determine the optimal growth factor combination to promote enhanced neurite growth. Finally, in aim 3, I will determine the optimal growth factor release profiles from delivered synthetic “cells” for native tissue regeneration and functional recovery in a rat model of cervical, contusion SCI.


Lead Researcher(s): 


Sarah Heilshorn (Materials Science and Engineering) and Giles Plant (Neurosurgery)

Funding Type: 
Postdoctoral Fellowship
Award Year: