NOV 11, 2020 7:16 AM PST

Bioconductive ink uses the body's own electrical signals to direct how and where neurons grow

The development of a new bioconductive ink from researchers in Australia, India, and Bangladesh is reported in the journal RSC Advances. The ink uses the body’s own electrical signals to direct how and where neurons grow, a development that promises to have many implications in the field of nerve engineering.

While the bioink has yet to be tested on humans, the research team did conduct experiments on a biocompatible scaffold that they produced for the purpose of this study. The bioink proved capable of directing the growth of nerve cells in organized lines, a feature that is necessary to be able to reconnect nerves and heal traumatic nerve injuries.

"Nerve cells need to be meticulously guided to regrow between the broken ends of a nerve - if they just build up anywhere they will cause more pain or sensory problems," explained lead author, Dr. Shadi Houshyar. "With our bioconductive ink, we can concentrate the neuron growth where we need it.

"Our research is in the early stages but with further development, we hope one day to enable damaged nerves to be fully reconnected, to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide."

This technology could potentially replace the need for nerve graft surgeries, an incredibly invasive procedure that can result in painful neuromas, misalignment of neural cell growth and injury at the harvest site. While not ideal, until now, nerve grafts have remained one of the only options for rebuilding function when an injury cause large peripheral nerve gaps. Unfortunately, other alternative techniques like artificial nerve guides, do not always achieve full functional or sensory recovery.

Photo: Pixabay

So how does the new bioink work? As explained by Dr. Houshyar, the ink uses dopamine combined with a conductive carbon nanofiber and polymer to enable its controlled release in order to stimulate enhanced nerve cell survival. "Using conductive materials allows free movement of electrons, stimulates cell growth and helps connect injured neural tissue," says Dr. Houshyar, who is a Vice-Chancellor's Research Fellow in the RMIT School of Engineering. The nanofiber also takes advantage of the body’s electrical signals produced by the nervous system in order to accelerate the healing of nerves.

In testing their ink, the team determined that printing the product in ordered lines helped to enhance cell attachment, migration, and differentiation, all of which are crucial for nerve regeneration.

"This supports proper communication with other neurons, which is promising for the establishment of neural circuits for sensory and motor processing - offering hope the technology could lead to a real recovery of nerve function," Dr. Houshyar said. "Our end goal is a nerve engineering solution that can direct the growth of the right nerve cells in the right places," she explained. "We're also keen to investigate how we can expand the potential uses of this technology, for speeding up wound healing and improving patient recovery."

Sources: RSC Advances, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 22, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
A New Way to Describe Enzyme Kinetics
AUG 22, 2020
A New Way to Describe Enzyme Kinetics
The  Michaelis-Menten equation is classic, but it may not be sufficient to describe all enzymatic reactions, new wo ...
SEP 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
SEP 03, 2020
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
Last week, TerraPower, a Bill Gates-backed nuclear startup, announced its latest project - a collaboration with GE Hitac ...
SEP 11, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Rise of (Micro)Robots
SEP 11, 2020
The Rise of (Micro)Robots
As reflected by Moore's law, the semiconductor industry has observed a tremendous growth in microelectronics in the ...
OCT 07, 2020
Neuroscience
Biocompatible Gel Restores Sciatic Nerve Function in Rats
OCT 07, 2020
Biocompatible Gel Restores Sciatic Nerve Function in Rats
Video: Explains poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), a hydrogel biopolymer that is a similar concept to the new hydrogel built ...
OCT 30, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Superconductivity at Room Temperature - Have Scientists Finally Achieved the Impossible?
OCT 30, 2020
Superconductivity at Room Temperature - Have Scientists Finally Achieved the Impossible?
First discovered by Dutch physicist Heike Onnes in the early 20th century, superconductivity is a rare phenomenon observ ...
NOV 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
STEVE, what is it?
NOV 14, 2020
STEVE, what is it?
STEVE is in the sky! STEVE, as is Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, the purple and green streaks that have b ...
Loading Comments...