Table of Contents
ISRN Biomaterials
Volume 2014, Article ID 426047, 9 pages
Research Article

Treatment of a Spinal Cord Hemitransection Injury with Keratin Biomaterial Hydrogel Elicits Recovery and Tissue Repair

1Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston Salem, NC 27157, USA
2Wake Forest University Molecular Medicine and Translational Science Graduate Program, Winston Salem, NC 27157, USA
3Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC 27157, USA
4School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

Received 6 January 2014; Accepted 17 February 2014; Published 23 March 2014

Academic Editors: S. Lamponi and S. Liao

Copyright © 2014 Bailey V. Fearing et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Medical care costs can reach an estimated value of $4 billion for spinal cord injuries (SCI) each year in the USA alone. With no viable treatment options available, care remains palliative and aims to minimize lifelong disabilities and complications, such as immobility, bladder and bowel dysfunction, breathing problems, and blood clots. Human hair keratin biomaterials have demonstrated efficacy in peripheral nerve injury models and were shown to improve conduction delay and increase axon number and density. In this study, a keratin hydrogel was tested in a central nervous system (CNS) application of spinal cord hemisection injury. Keratin-treated rats showed increased survival rates as well as a better functional recovery of gait properties and bladder function. Histological results demonstrated reduced glial scar formation with keratin treatment and suggested a greater degree of beneficial remodeling and cellular influx. The data provided in this pilot study suggest the possibility of using a keratin-based treatment for SCI and warrant further investigation.