A new biodegradable material which could help treat spinal injuries without invasive surgery

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A new biodegradable material which could help regenerate spinal cord tissue without invasive surgery is being developed by Monash University PhD student, Ms Rosalyn Jackson.

Ms Jackson, working under the supervision of Dr John Forsyth from the School of Physics and Materials Engineering, has been developing the jelly-like substance over the past 18 months and said it can be injected directly into a lesioned area of the spinal cord.

She said the hydrogel was made from of a novel and highly versatile biomaterial which could be easily modified to optimise results.

"The hydrogel works to fill the damaged area of the spinal cord when injected in situ and its bio-compatible makeup encourages regeneration of the spinal cord," she said.

"We are trying to fool the body into thinking the hydrogel is regular tissue, so the nerve cells will infiltrate and grow."

Ms Jackson's research has been in researching and developing the material. She has been collaborating with researchers from Nueroscience Victoria at the Austin Hospital who are focusing on the cellular trials of the hydrogel development.

"We are just about to begin the cellular studies which will tell us how the hydrogel will behave with cells. If this is successful it will enable us to begin trial tests with rat models," she said.

Ms Jackson described her project - which has direct applications for one of the most elusive fields of medical research - as ambitious but hopes her work may pave the way for future study of the use of hydrogel in treating spinal injuries.

"We are working on one of the most complex areas of the body so there are years of more research before this could be considered for human trials."

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