A new gel developed at Clemson University in South Carolina has shown in lab tests to incite growth of neural stem cells in adult rats.
Research by assistant professor of bioengineering Ning Zhang shows that the biomaterial gel made up of both synthetic and natural sources has the potential to spur the growth of a patient’s own neural stem cells in the body, structurally repairing the brain injury site. In previous lab studies, Zhang has demonstrated the reconstruction of a complete vascular network at the injury site as an initial step toward brain tissue regeneration.
Zhang presented her findings Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Military Research Forum in Kansas City. The conference is geared toward improving the overall health and welfare of the U.S. armed forces, their families, veterans and the American public.
“We have seen an increase in brain injuries due to combat, but our strategy can also potentially be applied to head injuries caused by car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds," said Zhang. “These results that we are seeing in adult lab rats are the first of its kind and show a sustained functional recovery in the animal model of TBI (traumatic brain injury). It also represents one of very few in the traumatic brain injury field that attempts structural repair of the lesion cavity using a tissue-engineering approach.”
Zhang predicts the procedure may be ready for human testing in about three years.
Press release: Clemson University researcher regenerates brain tissue in traumatic injuries
Image: Four weeks after hydrogel treament on a lesion in a rat’s brain, a well-structured vasculature network was rebuilt. In this mosaic image, green is neurofilament staining for neurites and red is staining for blood vessels.