Hydrogel Heals Injured Brain & Bone-Tissue

Nicolas Nelson
May 13th 2010

A new nano-particle-infused hydrogel, developed by scientists from Clemson University, should be able to heal scrambled brains and broken bones. The gel creates new blood vessels and in a later stage encourages the body to make its own stem cells to replace dead bone and/or brain cells.

The gel is currently in a testing phase.  The results from these tests show that almost all muscle and sensory functions from test rats had recovered twelve weeks after serious brain injury.

Nigh Zang, a Clemson University scientist, used a controlled cortical impactor to strike the rats forehead, which destroys most of the cortex of the brain. Fluid fills the area around the damaged tissue. The fluid will be replaced with a liquid. This liquid contains three different neural growth factors, which are encased in different biodegradable nanoparticles.

Due to the body temperature the liquid is turned into a gelatin scaffold which enhances the growth of blood vessels to feed the recovering tissue. In the following three to four weeks the three different types of nanoparticles brake open and release their contents.

The first growth factors find neural stem cells and prepare them for travel. The second growth factors aid in the travel of the stem cells. The final growth factors turn the stem cells into neurons and glial cells (cells that protect the neurons in the brain). With a modified version this hydrogel could also heal scattered bones.

The scientists state that the goal of the project is to encourage neurological regeneration of damaged tissue. If the damaged regions are not restored their function will be lost permanently.

Will we be able to heal and regenerate anything within the near future, providing people another sense of decay?

Share your thoughts and join the technology debate!public: 1


Adam Baudelaire
Posted 26/09/2011 – 05:51

I'm a little confused over some of your sentences. What does the last one mean? Providing people with another sense of decay?

Jim W
Posted 02/01/2011 – 05:26

.. Zhang's work pusblished in 2007 used only a bare gelatin or gelatin/hyaluronic acid gel to test biocompatibility (it was). Nonetheless, revasularization and possibly neurite growth was seen within several weeks. What's interesting to wonder is whether the hydrogel provided some way to induce neurite outgrowth and neural migration through the inhibitory components of the "glial scar" which develops after TBI. If it did - and if cells could actually initiate substantial neural regrown within the legion - if the inhibitory barrier of the scare is confined to a thin region at the legion border rather than permeating the entire legion volume - then the reason cells may not regenerate inside the legion may be simply that they cannot migrate there. HBOT already may encourage neural growth in the peri-legion area, where cells are already located. If the gel can allow cells to enter the area, and possibly provide a growth substrate as well..

Jim W
Posted 02/01/2011 – 05:20

@Kelly HBOT and a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets have been used for some kinds of epilepsy [1-3], and HBOT has been used for seizures as well [4].
With reference to the hydrogel, HBOT has also been shown to possibly mobilize stem cells [5, 6]. I wonder whether implanting a bare hydrogel (one without stem cells or growth factors) into the center of the brain injury, and then using HBOT to encourage vascularization (it already does), raise growth factors (it already does), and possibly mobilize stem cells would encourage endogenous stem cells to "use" the scaffold provided by the hydrogel construct. Zhang's work
[1] http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/treatment_ketogenic_diet
[2] "Ketogenic Diet for the Treatment of Refractory Epilepsy in Children: A Systematic Review of Efficacy." Frank Lefevre and Naomi Aronson. Pediatrics Vol. 105 No. 4 April 2000, p. e46:
"Although controlled trials are lacking, the evidence is sufficient to determine that the ketogenic diet is efficacious in reducing seizure frequency in children with refractory epilepsy. "
[3] "The Efficacy of the Ketogenic Diet1998: A Prospective Evaluation of Intervention in 150 Children." John M. Freeman et al. Pediatrics Vol. 102 No. 6 December 1998, pp. 1358-1363:
"The children (mean age, 5.3 years), averaged 410 seizures per month before the diet, despite an exposure to a mean of 6.2 antiepileptic medications. Three months after diet initiation, 83% of those starting remained on the diet and 34% had >90% decrease in seizures. At 6 months, 71% still remained on the diet and 32% had a >90% decrease in seizures. At 1 year, 55% remained on the diet and 27% had a >90% decrease in seizure frequency."
[4] "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for infants", http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Hyperbaric-Oxygen-Therapy-HBOT-for-Infants:
"Any human being, if given enough oxygen, will seize. People with existing seizure disorders will seize with less oxygen exposure. It wasn’t until Dr. Harch treated a group of near-drowning children with seizures between 1989 and 1993 that it was realized seizure disorders were responsive to HBOT. Dr. Machado in Brazil similarly noted in 1989 that his cerebral palsy children with seizures had a lessening of seizures after HBOT."
[5] Thom SR. “Stem cell mobilization by hyperbaric oxygen.” Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2006; 290(4): H1378-86
[6] Milovanova TN et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen stimulates vasculogenic stem cell growth and differentiation in vivo.” J Appl Physiol. 2009; 106(2): 711-28
[7] Ting Zhang. “Three-dimensional Gelatin and Gelatin/Hyaluronan Hydrogel Structures for Traumatic Brain Injury.” J Bioactive Compatible Polymers.” 2007; 22(1): 19-29

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