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Tissue Engineered “Living Scaffold” for Directed Neuron Replacement in the Brain

Description:

Implantable microtissue comprised of aligned astrocytes that mimic the migratory paths of naturally occurring stem cells in the brain.

 

Inventor

D. Kacy Cullen

 

Problem

In The United States, each year, > 80,000 people are affected with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), > 500,000 people suffer from stroke and approximately 10,000 people acquire spinal cord injury (SCI), which often results in functional deficits that are life altering and permanent because of the limited regenerative capacity of the central nervous system (CNS). Major CNS neurotrauma results in a necrotic zone surrounded by glial scar, and so far, there is no effective treatment that can facilitate the reestablishment of neural cell populations and axonal regeneration across the glial scar. This is a huge medical burden, both financially and in terms of the quality of life of the patients.

 

Solution

Inventors have introduced a technique to create ‘living scaffolds’ for targeted neural cell migration and axonal pathfinding, by inducing self-assembly of astrocytes, which recapitulates then neuro-regeneration observed during embryonic development. The invention includes the development of specific mechanical parameters, optimized growth media and the substrate that is required for stretch-growth of astrocytes to form ‘living scaffolds’ for neuronal growth. Inventors have also devised a novel biomaterial encasement method using hydrogel-collagen micro-columns, which can be transplanted at the site of injury, that facilitate the self-assembly of astrocytes into 3-D living scaffolds. These scaffolds mimic the structure and function of the rostral migratory stream and therefore may facilitate directed neuronal migration for CNS repair.