Regenerating the Brain and Spinal Cord
Regenerative medicine—the creation of tissues to repair, replace or restore lost functions—holds great promise for overcoming a number of diseases. Dr. Molly Shoichet, Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering, aims to bring this promise to fruition in such areas as spinal cord injury, stroke, blindness and cancer.
Shoichet has designed a family of innovative, injectable "hydrogels" that promote cell survival after transplant and allow local delivery of biologically active molecules to the brain in order to circumvent the "blood-brain barrier".
This is particularly important in stroke—the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Shoichet has helped demonstrate a non-invasive strategy to combat stroke. The system delivers proteins directly to brain tissue, promoting repair by stimulating stem cells in the brain.
For patients suffering from blindness, Shoichet has helped design a regenerative strategy in which transplanted cells survive and integrate with existing cells, to promote tissue and functional repair.
Shoichet is also researching stem cell stimulation and stem cell transplantation for spinal cord injury research. Her goal is to enhance regeneration after traumatic injury.
Shoichet has invented 3-D patterning technology for guided cell growth, which could, ultimately, be used in personalized medicine. The goal is to engineer tissues in a dish in order to study disease progression or screen drug molecules.
Shoichet’s research could turn the promise of regenerative medicine into reality, and may provide significant functional improvements to people suffering from a wide range of injuries and disease.