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Home > Press > Nanomedicine Opens the Way for Nerve Cell Regeneration: Two Research Groups Present Results at NSTI Nanotech 2007

The ability to regenerate nerve cells in the body could reduce the effects of trauma and disease in a dramatic way. In two presentations at the NSTI Nanotech 2007 Conference, researchers describe the use of nanotechnology to enhance the regeneration of nerve cells. In the first method, developed at the University of Miami, researchers show how magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) may be used to create mechanical tension that stimulates the growth and elongation of axons of the central nervous system neurons. The second method from the University of California, Berkeley uses aligned nanofibers containing one or more growth factors to provide a bioactive matrix where nerve cells can regrow.

Nanomedicine Opens the Way for Nerve Cell Regeneration: Two Research Groups Present Results at NSTI Nanotech 2007

SANTA CLARA, CA | Posted on May 20th, 2007

It is known that injured neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) do
not regenerate, but it is not clear why. Adult CNS neurons may lack an
intrinsic capacity for rapid regeneration, and CNS glia create an
inhibitory environment for growth after injury. Can these challenges be
overcome even before we fully understand them at a molecular level "why
axons in central nervous system do not regenerate?" Dr. Mauris N. De Silva
describes the novel nanotechnology based approach designed that includes
the use of magnetic nanoparticles and magnetic fields for addressing the
challenges associated with regeneration of central nervous system after
injury. "By providing mechanical tension to the regrowing axon, we may be
able to enhance the regenerative axon growth in vivo". This mechanically
induced neurite outgrowth may provide a possible method for bypassing the
inhibitory interface and the tissue beyond a CNS related injury. Using
optic nerve and spinal cord tissues as in vivo models and dissociated
retinal ganglion neurons as an in vitro model, De Silva and his colleagues
are currently investigating how these magnetic nanoparticles can be
incorporated into neurons and axons at the site of injury. Although, this
study is at a very preliminary stage to explore the possibility of using
magnetic nanoparticles for enhancing in vivo axon regeneration, this work
may have significant implications for the treatment of spinal cord
injuries, and is a vital "next step" in bringing this new technology to
clinical use.

The second presentation focuses on peripheral nerve injury, which
affects 2.8% of all trauma patients and quite often results in lifelong
disability. Since peripheral nerves relay signals between the brain and the
rest of the body, injury to these nerves results in loss of sensory and
motor function. Upper extremity paralysis alone affects more than 300,000
individuals annually in the US. The most serious form of peripheral nerve
injury is complete severance of the nerve. The severed nerve can
regenerate; the nerve fibers from the nerve end closest to the spinal cord
have to grow across the injury gap, enter the other nerve segment and then
work their way through to their end targets (skin, muscle, etc). Usually,
when the gap between the severed nerve endings is larger than a few
millimeters, the nerve does not regenerate on its own. If left untreated,
the end result is permanent sensory and motor paralysis. A few hundred
thousand people suffer from this debilitating condition annually in the US.

Currently, the most successful form of treatment is to take a section
of healthy nerve (autograft) from another part of the patient's body to
bridge the damaged one. This autograft then serves as a guide for nerve
fibers to cross the injury gap. Although successful, this autograft
procedure has major drawbacks including loss of function at the donor site,
multiple surgeries and, quite often, it's just not possible to find a
suitable nerve to use as a graft. Various synthetic nerve grafts are
currently available but none work better than the autograft and can't
bridge gaps larger than 4 centimeters.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a
technology that has the potential to serve as a better alternative than
currently available synthetic nerve grafts. The graft material is composed
entirely of aligned nanoscale polymer fibers. These polymer fibers act as
physical guides for regenerating nerve fibers. They have also developed a
way to make these aligned nanofibers bioactive by attaching various
biochemicals directly onto the surfaces of the nanofibers. Thus, the
bioactive aligned nanofiber technology mimics the nerve autograft by
providing both physical and biochemical cues to enhance and direct nerve

This technology has been tested by culturing rat nerve tissue ex vivo
on our bioactive aligned nanofiber scaffolds. When the nerve tissue was
cultured on unaligned nanofibers there was no nerve fiber growth onto the
scaffolds. However, on aligned nanofiber scaffolds, they not only observed
nerve fibers growing from the tissue but the nerve fibers were aligned in
the same orientation as the nanofibers. Furthermore, when there were
biochemicals present on the nanofibers, the nerve fiber growth was enhanced
5 fold. In a matter of just 5 days, nerve fibers had extended 4 millimeters
from the nerve tissue in a bipolar fashion on the bioactive aligned
nanofiber scaffolds. Thus, this technology can induce, enhance and direct
nerve fiber regeneration in a straight and organized manner.

In order to make the technology clinically viable, they have also
developed a novel graft fabrication technology in their laboratory. The
most common method for fabricating polymer nanofibers is to use an
electrical field to "spin" very thin fibers. This technique is called
electrospinning and can be used to make nanofiber scaffolds in various
shapes such as sheets and tubes. They have made a key innovation to this
technology that enables us to fabricate tubular nerve grafts composed
entirely of polymer nanofibers aligned along the length of tubes. This
technology also allows customization of the length, diameter and thickness
of the aligned tubular nanofiber grafts. The group will evaluate the
performance of these aligned nanofiber nerve grafts in small animal
pre-clinical studies starting in mid-May.

The technology presented herein is being patented by the University of
California, Berkeley and has been licensed to NanoNerve, Inc.

According to Principal Investigator, Shyam Patel, "Speed is the key to
successful nerve regeneration. Our aligned nanofiber technology takes full
advantage of the fact that the shortest distance between damaged nerve
endings is a straight line. It directs straightforward nerve growth and
never lets them stray from the fast lane."

The presentation on magnetic nanoparticles is "Developing
Super-Paramagnetic Nanoparticles for Central Nervous System Axon
Regeneration" by M.N. De Silva, M.V. Almeida and J.L. Goldberg, from the
University of Miami. The talk on aligned nanofibers is "Bioactive Aligned
Nanofibers for Nerve Regeneration" by S. Patel and S. Li, from the
University of California, Berkeley, CA. Both will be given on May 24, 2007
at the NSTI Nanotech 2007 conference in Santa Clara, CA, at 2:10 PM and
2:50 PM, respectively, both in Grand Ballroom D of the Santa Clara
Convention Center.

The mission of Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology & Medicine, the
international peer-reviewed journal published by Elsevier, is to
communicate new nanotechnology findings, and encourage collaboration among
the diverse disciplines represented in nanomedicine. Because this closely
mirrors NSTI's charter to seek the "promotion and integration of nano and
other advanced technologies through education, technology and business
development," Elsevier is pleased to be working in collaboration with NSTI
to bring this presentation to the attention of the scientific community.

Press Room - NSTI Nanotech 2007, May 20-24, 2007, Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clara Convention Center, Room 202

Contact Jami Walker at to arrange for an
interview prior to or during the NSTI Nanotech 2007 Conference.


About Nano Science and Technology Institute (NSTI)
The Nano Science and Technology Institute (NSTI; ) is
chartered with the advancement and integration of nano and other advanced
technologies through education, collaboration and research services. NSTI
accomplishes this mission through its offerings of continuing education
programs, conventions, scientific and business publishing and custom
research services. NSTI produces the annual Nanotech 200x conference and
trade show, the world's largest event to focus on nanoscience and
nanotechnology, attracting more than 3,000 industrial, academic, business
and governmental attendees from around the world.

About Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology & Medicine
Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine (Nanomedicine) is a
newly established, international, peer-reviewed journal published
quarterly. Nanomedicine publishes basic, clinical, and engineering research
in the innovative field of nanomedicine. Article categories include basic
nanomedicine, diagnostic nanomedicine, experimental nanomedicine, clinical
nanomedicine, and engineering nanomedicine, pharmacological nanomedicine.
Nanomedicine will provide the latest information in this rapidly developing
field, both in research and clinical applications. The Journal publishes
original clinical and investigative studies, state-of-the art papers,
reports on new equipment and techniques, review articles, and more.
Nanomedicine is the official publication of the American Academy of
Nanomedicine (AANM) and is indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed.

About Elsevier ( )

Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and
medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the
global science and health communities, Elsevier's 7,000 employees in over
70 offices worldwide publish more than 2,000 journals and 1,900 new books
per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic
products, such as ScienceDirect ( ), MD Consult
( ), Scopus ( ),
bibliographic databases, and online reference works.

Elsevier ( ) is a global business headquartered
in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has offices worldwide. Elsevier is part
of Reed Elsevier Group plc (, a world-leading
publisher and information provider. Operating in the science and medical,
legal, education and business-to-business sectors, Reed Elsevier provides
high-quality and flexible information solutions to users, with increasing
emphasis on the Internet as a means of delivery. Reed Elsevier's ticker
symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and
ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

For more information, please click here

Jami Walker
Associate Publisher
Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology & Medicine
Published by Elsevier
Tel: +1-314-579-3342

Copyright © PR Newswire Association LLC.

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