When Yadong Wang, a chemist by training, first ventured into nerve regeneration two years ago, he didn’t know that his peers would have considered him crazy.
His idea was simple: Because neural circuits use electrical signals often conducted by neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) to communicate between the brain and the rest of the body, he could build neurotransmitters into the material used to repair a broken circuit. The neurotransmitters could coax the neurons in the damaged nerves to regrow and reconnect with their target organ.
Strange though his idea might have seemed to others in his field, Wang, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, discovered that he could integrate dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter, into a polymer to stimulate nerve tissues to send out new connections. The discovery is the first step toward the eventual goal of implanting the new polymer into patients suffering from neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s or epilepsy, to help repair damaged nerves. The findings were published online the week of Oct. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“We showed that you could use a neurotransmitter as a building block of a polymer,” said Wang. “Once integrated into the polymer, the transmitter can still elicit a specific response from nerve tissues.”
The “designer” polymer was recognized by the neurons when used on a small piece of nerve tissue and stimulated extensive neural growth. The implanted polymer didn’t cause any tissue scarring or nerve degeneration, allowing the nerve to grow in a hostile environment post injury.
When ready for clinical use, the polymer would be implanted at the damaged site to promote nerve regeneration. As the nerve tissue reforms, the polymer degrades.
The success of dopamine has encouraged the team to set its sights on other neurotransmitters.
“Dopamine was a good starting point, but we are looking into other neurotransmitters as well,” Wang said.
The team’s next step is to verify findings that the material stimulates the reformation of synapses in addition to regrowth.
“A successful nerve regeneration will require the nerve to synapse with the target organ,” Wang said. “Since we’ve written this paper, we’ve also been able to get the nerves to form extensive synapses, which is a step in the right direction.”
Megan McRainey | EurekAlert!
Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences