Affordable Polymer-Based Scaffold Promotes Nerve Regeneration by Electrical Stimulation
This biomaterial composed of electroactive polymers utilizes electrical stimulation of cells to promote nerve regeneration within the peripheral nervous system. The field of regenerative medicine continually attracts increasing attention from investors and industries, surpassing $1 billion in annual revenue in 2013. Autografts, which take a functioning section of a nerve from elsewhere in the patient’s body, and allografts, which use a section of nerve form another living organism or cadaver, are typically used in regenerative medicine to repair nerve defects. However, autografts can cause loss of function at the removal site, and allografts are expensive. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed an electroactive biomaterial for peripheral nerve regeneration that uses electrical stimulation to encourage cells to increase nerve growth factor production, which is known to be beneficial for central and peripheral nervous systems. This biomaterial is a cheap alternative to typical non-electroactive nerve conduits, broadening its potential use to a wider population. These electroactive biomaterials also have the potential to be used to deliver drugs, antibacterial agents, and antifungal agents. Because these electroactive polymers use electrical stimulation, this biomaterial can be applied not only to nerve tissue but also cardiac, bone, and muscle tissues.
Electroactive biomaterial with electrical stimulation promotes nerve growth
- Possesses properties similar to an autologous nerve graft or a nerve allograft, facilitating efficacious repair of peripheral nerve defects
- Cheap alternative to available products, making nerve repair accessible to a broader population
- Potentially useful for stimulation of central nervous system or any other cells that respond to electrochemical stimuli, thus can be applied to muscle, bone, and cardiac tissues
This electroactive tissue scaffold comprises biodegradable polymers that enable the electrical stimulation of cells cultured thereon or therein. Such scaffolds may exhibit small changes in size or shape when stimulated by an electric field, thereby enabling drug delivery from the polymer matrix. Specifically, the biodegradable polymer-based scaffold with an interpenetrating network of electroactive polymers can be used as scaffolds to culture Schwann cells. Schwann cells are found throughout the entire peripheral nervous system and increase the production of nerve growth factor when electrically stimulated; importantly, nerve growth factor promotes nerve regeneration. Thus, this tissue scaffold may be used to deliver nerve growth factor to nerve tissue by implanting in the tissue a scaffold with cultured Schwann cells and applying electrical stimulation. These scaffolds also hold promise as drug delivery, antibacterial, and antifungal agents and are potentially capable of mechanotransduction of stem cells.