Gels made from clay could provide an environment that would stimulate stem cells to regenerate damaged tissues such as bone, skin, heart, spinal cord, liver, pancreas and cornea.
Researchers at the University of Southampton believe that clay particles' ability to bind to biological molecules could be used to stimulate the stem cell regeneration process.
Dr Jon Dawson, who is leading the research, explains: "Clay particles encourage molecules to bind to them. This interaction is now routinely harnessed in the design of tablets to carefully control the release and action of a drug. We will use this mechanism to see if we can encourage stem cells to grow new tissue."
The project, funded by a 1.4m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), aims to create tailormade micro-environments to foster stem cell regeneration. The team will use clay gels both to explore the biological signals necessary to successfully control stem cell behaviour for regeneration and also to provide stem cells with signals to stimulate regeneration in the body.
The approach will first be applied to regenerate bone lost to cancer or hip replacement failure. If successful the same technology may be applied to harness stem cells for the treatment of a whole host of different scenarios, from burn victims to those suffering with diabetes or Parkinson's.
Dr Dawson will be working with Professor Richard Oreffo of the Bone and Joint Research Group at the University of Southampton to explore the application of this technology in orthopaedics. "Fractures and bone loss due to trauma or disease are a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem," Dr Dawson comments. "Clay particles could offer an improved way of stimulating stem cells at the point of injury, which will be better for the patient's recovery."
Dr Dawson believes that the rich electrostatic properties of nano scale clay particles, which are one millio
|Contact: Becky Attwood|
University of Southampton