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Medical Research Leads to 3-D Hydrogel Biocompatible Nanofiber Scaffolding Forming Neuronanatomical Pathways

Many people are wheelchair users due to damaged neural tissue from disease or injuries. Researchers have discovered a way to reconstruct damaged neural tissue. In the past a diagnosis of neural tissue disease or injuries involving the neural tissues were met with very little treatment options. Damage to neural tissues was thought to be generally permanent. Research has led to 3-D hydrogel structures utilized to form neuroanatomical pathways.

Previously, stem cells received no direction once implanted into the body. The stem cells did not know what to do once they entered the body and the treatment often ended as a failed attempt. The new research findings are expected to aid many people to recover from neural disease and injuries. Dr. Richard J. McMurtrey recently led a group of researchers at the Institute of Neural Regenerative and Tissue Engineering in a biomedical study to overcome the previous issues with stem cell implantation. Dr. McMurtrey holds several degrees from the University of Oxford.

The new discovery grows stem cells on biocompatible nanofiber scaffolding surrounded by supportive hydrogel as a 3-D tissue construct. The hydrogel is also known as laminin, a type of cell adhesion molecule. The nanofibers direct the neurite extensions produced by neurons to grow along the biocompatible nanofiber scaffolding to form neural connections. The 3-D tissue constructs will perform similar to a roadmap for the neurons to follow. 3-D topographical guidance in conjunction with signaling molecules will increase the chances for the neurons to function properly. Biochemical cues, hydrogel composites and nanogel are the building blocks for the patterned infrastructure.

Additional studies are required before stem cells from a person’s own body can be utilized to repair neural damage from spinal cord injuries, stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumor resection or to mend other neurological damage. Medical researchers believe that neural tissue engineering shows great potential to restore function to damaged neurological tissue. After further research and procedure approval the patient will need to undergo rehabilitation to learn how to adapt the new connections.

*Photo courtesy of Neurons by Juliendn at Flickr’s Creative Commons. 

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