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Stem Cells International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 948040, 24 pages
Review Article

Hydrogels and Cell Based Therapies in Spinal Cord Injury Regeneration

1Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
2ICVS/3B’s, PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga/Guimarães, Portugal

Received 8 September 2014; Accepted 14 December 2014

Academic Editor: Pavla Jendelova

Copyright © 2015 Rita C. Assunção-Silva 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.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a central nervous system- (CNS-) related disorder for which there is yet no successful treatment. Within the past several years, cell-based therapies have been explored for SCI repair, including the use of pluripotent human stem cells, and a number of adult-derived stem and mature cells such as mesenchymal stem cells, olfactory ensheathing cells, and Schwann cells. Although promising, cell transplantation is often overturned by the poor cell survival in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Alternatively, the therapeutic role of different cells has been used in tissue engineering approaches by engrafting cells with biomaterials. The latter have the advantages of physically mimicking the CNS tissue, while promoting a more permissive environment for cell survival, growth, and differentiation. The roles of both cell- and biomaterial-based therapies as single therapeutic approaches for SCI repair will be discussed in this review. Moreover, as the multifactorial inhibitory environment of a SCI suggests that combinatorial approaches would be more effective, the importance of using biomaterials as cell carriers will be herein highlighted, as well as the recent advances and achievements of these promising tools for neural tissue regeneration.