Wednesday, 30 January 2013

New stem cell implant for neuron regeneration

Researchers from the University of Barcelona announced yesterday that they have created a new 3D bioabsorbable implant for growing neural stem cells (NSCs). The new implant greatly mimics the properties of the neural stem cell niche, the place where neural stem cells live, mature and differentiate. According to the researchers, their study holds many implications and may help in devising new regenerative treatments for conditions of the central nervous system (CNS) like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Zaida Alvarez, one of the chief authors, said that in order to to create effective regenerative stem cell treatments for CNS conditions it is crucial to first create a biomaterial that greatly emulates the properties of the NSC micro-enviroment. According to Soledad Alcántara, the corresponding author, their goal was to create a bioabsorbable material that both sustains the neural stem cell population and helps them into becoming neurons, ultimately leading to brain regeneration.

During the study, Alvarez and his team tested various types of polylactic acid (PLA), in the form of microthin films, with different proportions of the L and D/L isomers. PLA is a bioabsorbable material that allows neural stem cells to adhere and grow.

A neural stem cell

The researchers concluded that PLA with a 70/30 ratio of the two aforementioned isomers exhibits the best possible attributes. Specifically, PLA 70/30 showed:
  • Better neural cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. 
  • Fast degradation and absorption
  • It released substantial amounts of L-lactate (lactic acid) which is important for the survival of neural stem cells
According to Alvarez, the implant has the capacity to induce and/or activate existing neural stem cells to both replicate and differentiate into new neurons.

Alvarez Z, Mateos-Timoneda MA, Hyroššová P, Castaño O, Planell JA, Perales JC, Engel E, & Alcántara S (2013). The effect of the composition of PLA films and lactate release on glial and neuronal maturation and the maintenance of the neuronal progenitor niche. Biomaterials, 34 (9), 2221-33 PMID: 23276659

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