Scientists are always seeking new methods to boost neural regeneration for traumatic brain injuries, but this goal is challenging for many reasons. Brain tissue does not have the same regenerative capacity as other parts of the human body, such as the skin. A study published in Scientific Reports demonstrated that synthetic hydrogels effectively facilitate neuronal tissue growth in areas of brain damage.
Hokkaido University researchers used hydrogel materials combined with neural stem cells to cultivate new brain tissue. They first developed a hydrogel material in which neural stem cells could survive. A neutral gel with equal amounts of positively and negatively charged monomers promoted cell adhesion most effectively. The researchers adjusted ratios of crosslinker molecules to simulate the consistency of brain tissue.
The researchers soaked the gels in a growth factor serum before implanting them in the mice’s brain tissue. They observed that immune cells and neuronal cells from the surrounding host brain tissue had penetrated the hydrogel after three weeks, and blood vessels had also grown significantly. The researchers concluded that hydrogels are critical in healing the brain.
The researchers also injected neural stem cells into the hydrogel. Stem cell survival rate was high after 40 days; some had differentiated into new astrocyte or neuronal cells. Host cells infiltrated the hydrogel, and some new neuronal cells from the hydrogel moved to the surrounding brain tissue. These observations suggest various degrees of integration between the hydrogel and host brain tissue.
This study marks an important step toward developing therapies involving brain tissue regeneration. The research team plans to study the optimal transplant timing and the effect of the inflammatory response on transplanted cells.
Sources: Eureka News Alert, Scientific Reports