Polymer implants could help heal brain injuries
By Ben Coxworth
November 27, 2012
Using implants made from porous biocompatible materials, scientists have recently been successful in regrowing things such as teeth, tendons and heart tissue, plus bone and cartilage. The materials act as a sort of nanoscale three-dimensional scaffolding, to which lab-cultivated cells can be added, or that the recipient’s own cells can colonize. Now, a Spanish research team has used the same principle to grow new brain tissue – the technique could ultimately be used to treat victims of brain injuries or strokes.
The project was led by Prof. José Miguel Soria from Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, and Prof. Manuel Monleón of the Universitat Politècnica de València.
The implants they designed were made from a synthetic material known as acrylate copolymer. As with the implants mentioned earlier, it is biocompatible and has a porous structure.
They implanted samples of the copolymer within two areas of the brains of live rats – the cerebral cortex and the subventricular zone. After two months, new blood vessels had grown into the implants, plus the material had been colonized by the rats’ neural progenitor cells (similar to stem cells, in that they can become a certain type of cell).
Ordinarily, the regeneration of adult brain tissue is limited, due to the fact that new blood vessels tend not to grow into damaged tissue.
According to the scientists, the presence of the blood vessels and progenitor cells should allow for the generation of new neurons and glia (cells that support neurons), which should in turn be capable of healing brain injuries.
A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.