Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Spun-sugar fibers spawn sweet technique for nerve repair

02.03.2009
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a technique using spun-sugar filaments to create a scaffold of tiny synthetic tubes that might serve as conduits to regenerate nerves severed in accidents or blood vessels damaged by disease.

The sugar filaments are coated with a corn-based degradable polymer, and then the sugar is dissolved in water, leaving behind bundles of hollow polymer tubes that mimic those found in nerves, said Riyi Shi, an associate professor in Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Basic Medical Sciences.

The scaffold could be used to promote nerve regeneration by acting as a bridge placed between the ends of severed nerves, said biomedical engineering doctoral student Jianming Li, who is a member of Shi's research team that developed the technique.

The researchers are initially concentrating on the peripheral nerves found in the limbs and throughout the body because nerve regeneration is more complex in the spinal cord. About 800,000 peripheral nerve injuries are reported annually in the United States, with about 50,000 requiring surgery.

The approach also might have applications in repairing blood vessels damaged by trauma and disease such as atherosclerosis and diabetes, Shi said.

The new approach represents a potential alternative to the conventional surgical treatment, which uses a nerve "autograft" taken from the leg or other part of the body to repair the injured nerves. Researchers are trying to develop artificial scaffolds to replace the autografts because removing the donor nerve causes a lack of sensation in the portion of the body where it was removed.

"The autograft is the lesser of two evils because you have to sacrifice a healthy nerve to repair a damaged segment," said Li, who led the research.

New findings were published online in December and this month in the print edition of the journal Langmuir. The paper was written by Li, biomedical engineering doctoral student Todd A. Rickett and Shi. Rickett also is attending the Indiana University School of Medicine in an MD-Ph.D. program.

Researchers from Cornell University published similar findings online Feb. 9 in the journal Soft Matter. Those findings focused on using the technique to create vascular networks for providing blood and nutrients to tissues and grafts.

The synthetic scaffold resembles the structural assembly of natural nerves, which are made of thousands of small tubes bundled together. These tubes act as sheaths that house the conducting elements of the nerve cell.

The first step in making the tubes is to spin sugar fibers from melted sucrose.

"It's basically like making cotton candy," Li said.

The sugar filaments were coated with a polymer called poly L-lactic acid. After the filaments were dissolved, hollow tubes of the polymer remained. The researchers then grew nerve-insulating cells called Schwann cells on these polymer tubes. These cells automatically aligned lengthwise along the tubes, as did nerve cells grown on top of the Schwann cells.

This alignment is critical for the fast growth of nerves, Shi said.

Nerve cells grew not only inside the hollow tubes but also around the outside of the tubes.

"This finding is important because the increased surface area may accelerate the regeneration process following an accident," Li said.

The scaffolds are designed specifically to regenerate a portion of a nerve cell called the axon, a long fiber attached to the cell body that transmits signals. Fast regeneration is essential to prevent the atrophy of muscles and organs connected to severed nerves.

The researchers also discovered that the polymer tubes contain pores that are ideal for supplying nutrients to growing nerve cells and removing waste products from the cells.

Images of the polymer-coated sugar strands were taken using a scanning electron microscope. Another instrument, called an atomic force microscope, was used to obtain images of the hollow tubes and pores in the walls of the tubules. Other images using fluorescent dyes revealed the nerve cell alignment along the tubes.

The work was done using cell cultures in petri dishes, but ongoing work focuses on implanting the scaffolds in animals.

The method for creating the scaffolds is relatively simple and inexpensive and does not require elaborate laboratory equipment, Shi said.

"This is low-tech," he said. "We used the same kind of sugar found in candy and a cheap polymer to make samples of these scaffolds for a few dollars. The process easily lends itself to mass production. It is a unique idea, and the simplicity and efficiency of this technology distinguish it from other approaches for nerve repair."

A provisional patent application on the material has been filed.

This study was conducted at Purdue's Center for Paralysis Research, which receives funding support from the state of Indiana. Shi's lab is supported by both the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Li was supported by the NSF's Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education Program, which strives to help graduate students bring their research and practice into the K-12 classrooms and inspire students to pursue careers in science and engineering. Li used knowledge gained in the laboratory to teach middle school students and worked on curriculum development. Rickett is supported through the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, which funds research on developing new technologies into effective medical therapies.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu
Sources: Riyi Shi, (765) 496-3018, riyi@purdue.edu
Jianming Li. (765) 496-3018, jianming@purdue.edu
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Programming cells with computer-like logic
27.07.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics
27.07.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>