Neural Tissue Engineering holds potential to restore functional capabilities to damaged neural tissue, thus offering the hope of improving quality of life for millions of people who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and neurodegenerative diseases. However, the design and construction of neural tissue presents many challenges. The regeneration and restoration of functional neural tissue requires many important cellular and extracellular components, which interact with each other in several important ways. Extracellular materials serve as scaffolding for cellular architecture and can provide many biochemical signals that influence stem cell differentiation and cell behavior. Cells themselves also interact with each other in important ways, directing neural function, trophic support, and differentiation during development. For neuronal cells, three-dimensional culture is essential to reconstruct realistic cellular interactions and adherence with surrounding cells and matrix as well as to reconstruct the innate structure-function relationship in neuronal tissue. Guiding cells to achieve the intended goal of survival, proliferation, differentiation, and network formation is a difficult challenge, but integration of multiple components and techniques will provide the best approach to engineering functional neural tissue.
We believe that the ideal approach for reconstructing functional neural tissue will include the combination of stem cells, bioechemical signals, nanopatterned scaffolds, and biomaterial architectures. The 3D neural tissue constructs currently being developed at the Institute hold several potential benefits as implantable grafts, such as being biocompatible, scalable in size and complexity, protective to neuroglial cell cultures, self-containing reservoirs of cells and growth factors that are less likely to wash out into cerebrospinal fluid, and gel-stabilized for direct implantation, and they hold immense potential to serve as neural tissue grafts that use a patient’s own cells to restore neural function in cases of neurologic disease and injury [1-3].
1) McMurtrey RJ. Patterned and Functionalized Nanofiber Scaffolds in 3-Dimensional Hydrogel Constructs Enhance Neurite Outgrowth and Directional Control. J. Neural Eng. 11 (2014) 066009 doi:10.1088/1741-2560/11/6/066009 PMID: 25358624 arXiv:1501.01338
2) McMurtrey RJ. Novel Advancements in Three-Dimensional Neural Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. Neural Regeneration Research. 2015 Mar; 10(3):352-354. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.153674 PMID: 25878573 arXiv:1504.00698
3) McMurtrey RJ. Analytic Models of Oxygen and Nutrient Diffusion, Metabolism Dynamics, and Architecture Optimization in Three-Dimensional Tissue Constructs with Applications and Insights in Cerebral Organoids. Tissue Engineering Part C. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2015.0375 PMID: 26650970 arXiv:1512.06475
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