Biomaterial Gel Can Spark Brain Tissue Regeneration

Brain tissue may be able to regenerate at the site of a traumatic brain injury through use of an injectable biomaterial gel, according to research conducted by a Clemson University engineer. Assistant professor of bioengineering, Ning Zhang, has demonstrated that the biomaterial gel composed of both synthetic and natural sources has the potential to spark the growth of an individual's own neural stem cells in the body, allowing recovery of injured brain tissue.

Zhang explains the implications of her recent study, “We have seen an increase in brain injuries due to combat, but our strategy can also be potentially be applied to head injuries caused by car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds. These results on lab rats are the first of its kind and show a sustained functional recover in the animal model of 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’s previous studies have demonstrated the reconstruction of a complete vascular network at the site of brain injury as an initial step toward tissue regeneration. She claims that modern approaches to traumatic brain injury have been focused on managing the primary injury using hypothermia or neuroprotection with pharmacological agents, all with only modest success. With the new procedure the hydrogel is injected into the lesion site to stimulate the response of neural stem cells in the brain to regenerate brain tissue at the damage site.

Zhang reported her findings at the Military Research Forum in Kansas City. The conference is geared toward improving overall health and welfare of the U.S. armed forces, their families, veterans and the American publish. She predicts that this new procedure may be ready for human testing in about three years.


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