Biomaterial aids nerve regeneration

June 7, 2011, Monash University
Andrew Rodda in the laboratory.

(Medical Xpress) -- A Monash University researcher has developed a new biomaterial that encourages damaged nerves in the brain and spinal cord to regrow. The work could revolutionise treatment of nerve-based injuries and diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

PhD student Andrew Rodda was part of a Monash Materials Engineering team investigating xyloglucan, a plant-based compound derived from the seeds of the tamarind tree.

Within plants, xyloglucan plays an important role in linking together and Mr Rodda has been studying its effects in animals with damaged cells.

The compound developed by Mr Rodda can be injected into an injury site as a liquid, before becoming a gel as it reaches body temperature.

Once in place, the gel acts as a support structure through which healthy cells can migrate and potentially reattach themselves to the nervous system.

Until now, all damage to the nerve cells of the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord – had been considered irreparable.

Mr Rodda said the lack of repair, or regrowth is due mainly to the toxic environment left behind after nerve death.

“Nerve cells are sensitive, and will only grow in the most supportive of environments,” Mr Rodda said.

“After injury, new cells cannot normally penetrate into the empty space left after mass cell death. Cells clump at the edges, forming an impenetrable barrier. This leaves the centre of the wound as a lesion, which contains chemicals that kill growing nerves.”

Mr Rodda said the new works by providing a temporary scaffold on which new cells can grow and penetrate the lesion.

Significantly, it was the helper cells, known as astrocytes, which were the first to move into the implanted gel. These cells secrete beneficial chemicals, which may have helped create an environment in which the delicate nerve cells can survive.

Mr Rodda’s study is part of a worldwide effort to encourage nerve regeneration in the brain and spinal cord. It builds on previous work at Monash University to understand and control nerve growth using biomaterials.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

Scientists unleash power of genetic data to identify disease risk

January 16, 2018
Massive banks of genetic information are being harnessed to shed new light on modifiable health risks that underlie common diseases.

Blood-vessel-on-a-chip provides insight into new anti-inflammatory drug candidate

January 15, 2018
One of the most important and fraught processes in the human body is inflammation. Inflammatory responses to injury or disease are crucial for recruiting the immune system to help the body heal, but inflammation can also ...

Molecule produced by fat cells reduces obesity and diabetes in mice

January 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers have discovered a new biological pathway in fat cells that could explain why some people with obesity are at high risk for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The new findings—demonstrated ...

Obese fat becomes inflamed and scarred, which may make weight loss harder

January 12, 2018
The fat of obese people becomes distressed, scarred and inflamed, which can make weight loss more difficult, research at the University of Exeter has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.