Friday, February 01, 2008

Stem Cell Scaffold May Rebuild Nerves

A Monash University PhD student has developed a new technique that could revolutionize stem cell treatment for Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury.

David Nisbet from Monash University's Department of Materials Engineering has used existing polymer-based biodegradable fibres, 100 times smaller than a human hair, and re-engineered them to create a unique 3-D scaffold that could potentially allow stem cells to repair damaged nerves in the human body more quickly and effectively.

Mr Nisbet said a combined process of electrospinning and chemical treatment was used to customize the fiber structure, which can then be located within the body.

"The scaffold is injected into the body at the site requiring nerve regeneration. We can embed the stem cells into the scaffold outside the body or once the scaffold is implanted. The nerve cells adhere to the scaffold in the same way ivy grips and weaves through a trellis, forming a bridge in the brain or spinal cord. Over time, the scaffold breaks down and is naturally passed from the body, leaving the newly regenerated nerves intact," Mr Nisbet said.

Mr Nisbet said the existing processes released stem cells into the nervous system where they 'floated' around.

"Our studies show that stem cells anchored to a scaffold not only"