A step towards repairing the central nervous system

January 31, 2013

Neuronal cell cultures through a confocal microscope. The cytoskeleton is stained red, the nuclei blue, and proliferative nuclei green. (Credit: University of Barcelona)

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the University of Barcelona in Spain have discovered a biomaterial that can  generate new differentiated neural stem cells, as part of a project to develop an implant that allows brain repair and regeneration.

The team tested different types of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable material allowing neural cell adhesion and growth. They found that PLA with a proportion of isomers of 70/30 maintained the important pools of neuronal and glial progenitor cells in vitro.

PLA 70/30 was more amorphous, degraded faster, and, crucially, released significant amounts of L-lactate, which is essential for the maintenance and differentiation of neural progenitor cells.

“The mechanical and surface properties of PLA70/30, which we used here in the form of microthin films, make it a good substrate for neural cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation,” says Zaida Álvarez of the IBEC Biomaterials for Regenerative Therapies group.

Enabling the CNS to regenerate could open doors to promising new strategies to tackle accidental damage as well as numerous diseases like stroke and degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.