Engineered Neural Tissues

The group specialises in building neural tissues by growing nervous system cells in a 3-dimensional environment. These engineered neural tissues can be adapted using specific cells, extracellular matrix, chemical signals and biomechanical cues in order to provide laboratory models for neuroscience research, or implantable grafts for use in regenerative medicine.

1. Nervous system models

A range of models have been developed and can be tailored to mimic specific aspects of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Some examples are provided here to give an overview of the technology, but more are described in our research publications. 3D hydrogels provide a more realistic spatial environment for neurons and glial cells than traditional 2D culture systems. They allow continuous observation and controlled manipulation, thereby facilitating analysis of cellular interactions. They complement in vivo models which generally allow only snapshot views and offer limited scope for controlling complex variables.

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2. Nervous system repair

Repair devices are designed to encourage growth of host neurons through an area of damage. They don’t contain any neurons, but often include aligned materials and glial cells in order to guide and support regenerating neurons. They need to be made from materials and cells suitable for safe therapeutic use, and as well as promoting neuronal growth they must restore the biomechanical functionality of the tissue.

Peripheral nerve repair devices have been developed that supply aligned therapeutic cells in a collagen gel, tethered within an outer tube.

Recent peripheral nerve and spinal cord repair devices have focussed on stabilising aligned cellular material for implantation into a repair site without the reliance on an outer tube for tethering.

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