Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stem cells + nanofibers = Promising nerve research

08.11.2012
Researchers coax cells to grow and myelinate along thin fibers, with potential use in testing treatments for neurological diseases

Every week in his clinic at the University of Michigan, neurologist Joseph Corey, M.D., Ph.D., treats patients whose nerves are dying or shrinking due to disease or injury.


This shows an oligodendrocyte nerve cell (red/purple) wrapped around a polymer nanofiber (white/clear).

Credit: Univ. of Michigan/UCSF

He sees the pain, the loss of ability and the other effects that nerve-destroying conditions cause – and wishes he could give patients more effective treatments than what's available, or regenerate their nerves. Then he heads to his research lab at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, where his team is working toward that exact goal.

In new research published in several recent papers, Corey and his colleagues from the U-M Medical School, VAAAHS and the University of California, San Francisco report success in developing polymer nanofiber technologies for understanding how nerves form, why they don't reconnect after injury, and what can be done to prevent or slow damage.

Using polymer nanofibers thinner than human hairs as scaffolds, researchers coaxed a particular type of brain cell to wrap around nanofibers that mimic the shape and size of nerves found in the body.

They've even managed to encourage the process of myelination – the formation of a protective coating that guards larger nerve fibers from damage. They began to see multiple concentric layers of the protective substance called myelin start to form, just as they do in the body. Together with the laboratory team of their collaborator Jonah Chan at UCSF, the authors reported the findings in Nature Methods.

The research involves oligodendrocytes, which are the supporting actors to neurons -- the "stars" of the central nervous system. Without oligodendrocytes, central nervous system neurons can't effectively transmit the electrical signals that control everything from muscle movement to brain function.

Oligodendrocytes are the type of cells typically affected by multiple sclerosis, and loss of myelin is a hallmark of that debilitating disease.

The researchers have also determined the optimum diameter for the nanofibers to support this process – giving important new clues to answer the question of why some nerves are myelinated and some aren't.

While they haven't yet created fully functioning "nerves in a dish," the researchers believe their work offers a new way to study nerves and test treatment possibilities. Corey, an assistant professor of neurology and biomedical engineering at the U-M Medical School and researcher in the VA Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center, explains that the thin fibers are crucial for the success of the work.

"If it's about the same length and diameter as a neuron, the nerve cells follow it and their shape and location conform to it," he says. "Essentially, these fibers are the same size as a neuron."

The researchers used polystyrene, a common plastic, to make fibers through a technique called electrospinnning. In a recent paper in Materials Science and Engineering C, they discovered new techniques to optimize how fibers made from poly-L-lactide, a biodegradable polymer, can be better aligned to resemble neurons and to guide regenerating nerve cells.

They're also working to determine the factors that make oligodendrocytes attach to the long narrow axons of neurons, and perhaps to start forming myelin sheaths too.

By attaching particular molecules to the nanofibers, Corey and his colleagues hope to learn more about what makes this process work -- and what makes it go awry, as in diseases caused by poor nerve development.

"What we need to do for multiple sclerosis is to encourage nerves to remyelinate," he says. "For nerve damage caused by trauma, on the other hand, we need to encourage regeneration."

In addition to Corey, the research has been led by Chan, the Rachleff Professor of Neurology at UCSF, VAAAHS lab team member and U-M graduate Samuel J. Tuck, U-M biomedical engineering graduate student Michelle Leach, UCSF's Stephanie Redmond, Seonook Lee, Synthia Mellon and S.Y. Christin Chong, and Zhang-Qi Feng of U-M Biomedical Engineering.

Peripheral nerves, which have neurons at the center surrounded by cells called Schwann cells, can also be studied using the nanofiber technique. The system could also be used to study how different types of cells interact during and after nerve formation.

Toward creating new nerves, Corey's lab has collaborated with R. Keith Duncan, PhD, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology. Published in Biomacromolecules, they found that stem cells are more likely to develop into neurons when they are grown on aligned nanofibers produced in Corey's lab. They eventually hope to use this approach to build new nerves from stem cells and direct their connections to undamaged parts of the brain and to muscle.

Eventually, Corey envisions, perhaps nerves could be grown along nanofibers in a lab setting and then transferred to patients' bodies, where the fiber would safely degrade.

The research was supported by a VA Merit funding grant, the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar Award, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS062796-02).

References:

Nature Methods 9, 917, (2012) doi:10.1038/nmeth.2105

Biomacromolecules, Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/bm301220k

Materials Science and Engineering: C, Volume 32, Issue 7, 1 October 2012, Pages 1779�

Important note for patients:

This research is still in the laboratory stages, and there are no immediate plans to perform studies in human patients. If you are interested in finding other opportunities to take part in medical research studies at U-M, please visit www.umclinicalstudies.org.

Kara Gavin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.umclinicalstudies.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Kidney tumor: Genetic trigger discovered
18.06.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
18.06.2018 | Imperial College London

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>