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'Walking' molecule superstructures could help create neurons for regenerative medicine
Imagine if surgeons could transplant healthy neurons into patients living with neurodegenerative diseases or brain and spinal cord injuries. And imagine if they could "grow" these neurons in the laboratory from a patient's own cells using a synthetic, highly bioactive material that is suitable for 3D printing.
By discovering a new printable biomaterial that can mimic properties of brain tissue, Northwestern University researchers are now closer to developing a platform capable of treating these conditions using regenerative medicine.
A key ingredient to the discovery is the ability to control the self-assembly processes of molecules within the material, enabling the researchers to modify the structure and functions of the systems from the nanoscale to the scale of visible features. The laboratory of Samuel I. Stupp published a 2018 paper in the journal Sciencewhich showed that materials can be designed with highly dynamic molecules programmed to migrate over long distances and self-organize to form larger, "superstructured" bundles of nanofibers.
Now, a research group led by Stupp has demonstrated that these superstructures can enhance neuron growth, an important finding that could have implications for cell transplantation strategies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, as well as spinal cord injury.
"This is the first example where we've been able to take the phenomenon of molecular reshuffling we reported in 2018 and harness it for an application in regenerative medicine," said Stupp, the lead author on the study and the director of Northwestern's Simpson Querrey Institute. "We can also use constructs of the new biomaterial to help discover therapies and understand pathologies."
A pioneer of supramolecular self-assembly, Stupp is also the Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering and holds appointments in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering and the Feinberg School of Medicine.
The article based on the information: Sciencedaily
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