“Engineering Natural-Based Materials for Functional Nerve Regeneration”
Host: Lori Setton (WashU Biomedical Engineering (BME))
Abstract: Damage to peripheral nerve tissue can have a devastating impact on the quality of life for individuals suffering from nerve injuries. Our research is focused on analyzing and designing natural-based biomaterials that can interface with neurons and specifically stimulate and guide nerves to regenerate. These biomaterials can ultimately be used for facial and hand reconstruction or in trauma cases, and potentially could be used to aid the regeneration of damaged spinal cord as well. This presentation will focus on peripheral nerve applications and successes to date.
In one approach, we have focused on the development of advanced hyaluronan-based scaffolds for nerve regeneration applications. Hyaluronic acid (HA; also known as hyaluronan) is a non-sulfated, high molecular weight, glycosaminoglycan found in all mammals and is a major component of the extracellular matrix in the nervous system. HA plays a significant role in wound healing and tissue regeneration, and is also a versatile biomaterial that has been used in a number of applications including tissue engineering scaffolds, clinical therapies, and drug delivery devices. Our group has devised novel techniques to process HA into forms that can be used in therapeutic wound healing applications. For example, we are using advanced laser-based processes and magnetic particle templating to create microarchitecture within the hyaluronan materials to mimic the native basal lamina of nerve and thus to provide physical and chemical guidance features for regenerating axons. In a parallel approach to foster nerve regeneration, our group has developed natural “acellular tissue grafts” created by chemical processing of normal intact nerve tissue to preserve the microarchitecture but to eliminate the immune response. These engineered, biological nerve grafts are currently used in the clinic for peripheral nerve injuries.
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