Scientists Engineer World’s First 3D Human Spinal Cord Implant

3D spinal cord
5 Petri dish with tissue samples. Credit: Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology

Researchers report successful results from a lab model of 3D human spinal cord tissue implant developed for treating paralysis. 

A team of researchers from the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University have developed 3D human spinal cord tissues. Led by Professor Tal Dvir, they recently implanted the spinal cord implants in a lab model of long-term chronic paralysis. The results of the study are available in the journal Advanced Science.

To engineer the implant, the team first obtained a small biopsy of belly fat tissue from a patient. After separating the tissue’s cells from the extracellular matrix, they genetically engineered the cells. Thus, reverting them to a state similar to that of embryonic stem cells. These type of cells have the ability to specialize into any cell in the body. On the other hand, the separated extracellular matrix helped develop a personalized hydrogel that lacked the ability to evoke an immune response or implant rejection. Next, the researchers enclosed the stem cells within this hydrogel; thus, mimicking the embryonic development of the spinal cord. As a result, the cells turned into 3D implants of neuronal networks containing motor neurons.

80% Success Rate

Next, they implanted these 3D tissues into two groups: an acute model (recently paralyzed) and a chronic model that had been paralyzed close to a year in human terms. As a result, 100% of the acute group and 80% of those with chronic paralysis regained their ability to walk.

This is the first instance in the world in which implanted engineered human tissues have generated recovery in an animal model for long-term chronic paralysis – which is the most relevant model for paralysis treatments in humans.

accProf. Tal Dvir, study lead

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 250 000 to 500 000 people suffer from a spinal cord injury. While complete or partial paralysis is the most common symptom, people with spinal cord injuries are also at a higher risk of developing secondary conditions. However, there is currently no effective treatment for people suffering from such injuries. Therefore, Professor Tal Dvir, head of Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, is now planning to conduct human clinical trials in the next few years. Moreover, they hope their technology will help develop personalized implants for people suffering from paralysis.


Wertheim, L., et al. (2022) Regenerating the injured spinal cord at the chronic phase by engineered iPSCsderived 3D neuronal networks. Advanced Science.


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