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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Pelling

Andrew on the TED2020 Mainstage: Could we treat spinal cord injuries with asparagus?

Andrew giving a TED talk from his dining room table.

In the follow up to his 2016 TED talk, Andrew is finally able to reveal the results of a 5-year study in which a large collaborative team investigated how asparagus derived scaffolds might potentially be used for treating traumatic spinal cord injury. Watch now to learn how this dedicated group of scientists worked for many years to restore motor function in paralyzed animals with their plant-derived scaffolds.

Asparagus derived spinal cord implants.

We would be nowhere without an amazing team and it's time to celebrate the the contributions of the many scientists who were part of this large interdisciplinary collaboration. Daniel Modulevsky, the PhD student and lead author of this study, who, for endless months, slept in his car, or didn't sleep at all, just to stay close enough to campus to care for the animals every few hours.

Dr. Charles M. Cuerrier, the postdoctoral fellow who navigated our responsibility to the regulatory landscape, coordinated the fine surgical details and managed our large team.

Dr. Eve C. Tsai, the smarter-than-all-of-us neurosurgeon who didn't throw Dan, Charles and Andrew out of her office when they first proposed the hypothesis in 2015. Instead she rolled up her sleeves and helped develop a plan.

And finally, everyone who participated in the surgeries, animal care, data collection and analysis in the years it took to get to this point: Maxime Leblanc-Latour, Ryan J. Hickey, Ras-Jeevan K. Obhi, Isabel Shore, Ahmad Galuta, and Krystal L. A. Walker.

We also are indebted to the entire staff of the University of Ottawa Animal Care and Veterinary Service who still look twice if they see Dan roaming the halls. Their professionalism and commitment to animal care is an inspiration.

And of course, the University of Ottawa which seeded the project so we could gather the critical pilot data demonstrating what might be possible. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that high risk, high reward, strategic investment in the Pelling Lab.

“I think the real innovation is that we’re now able to design or program the architecture and structure of plant tissues to address an unmet medical need”

Ears out of apples?

Watch Andrew's 2016 TED talk that started it all. In this talk he reveals the use of apple tissues to create human ears and speculates about the use of asparagus in spinal cord injury. At the time, only a very small number of people knew what the Pelling Lab had already discovered.

What happens next?

Spiderwort's CelluBridgeTM designated a "Breakthrough Device" by the FDA

Andrew is also the co-founder and CSO of Spiderwort Inc. a company that is currently leading the clinical translation of these fundamental scientific discoveries. Spiderwort recently announced that CelluBridgeTM, its spinal cord technology, has been designated a Breakthrough Device by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This allows the company to bring their technology more rapidly to people living with spinal cord injury. To learn more, or get in touch with the Spiderwort team, click here.

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