As the human body grows, various types of cells line up in different ways to create tissue types. This alignment is facilitated by the extracellular matrix, which also plays a role in processes such as cell division. When tissues are damaged, the extracellular matrix is scrambled and the healing process is often impeded by this lack of organization. To help restore the guidance that the scaffolding of the extracellular matrix normally provides, researchers at DWI Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, Germany have developed an injectable material that can be used to orient cells growing in and around it.
The material, called Anisogel, may be of particular benefit for repairing spinal cord injuries, as the body is not very good at healing nerve tracts that consist of well aligned nerve cells. The researchers are hoping that Anisogel can help steer the healing process so that severed nerve tracts can be linked back together.
The material consists of a microgel, that is a mix of polymer fiber beads, and a bunch of rod shaped iron oxide nanoparticles within the beads. These microgels are placed in another gel that holds them together so that they’re injectable and remain in place. The iron oxide nanoparticles within the beads can be oriented in a chosen direction using a magnet, and so the microgels orient the same way.
After the team tried using the Anisogel and oriented the iron oxide nanoparticles in a certain direction, the cells that crew around the injection aligned themselves parallel to the magnetic field of the magnet.
Study in Nano Letters: Nerve Cells Decide to Orient inside an Injectable Hydrogel with Minimal Structural Guidance…