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Neurotransmitters in biopolymers stimulate nerve regeneration
Date:12/11/2007

Research reported December 11 in the journal Advanced Materials describes a potentially promising strategy for encouraging the regeneration of damaged central nervous system cells known as neurons.

The technique would use a biodegradable polymer containing a chemical group that mimics the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to spur the growth of neurites, which are projections that form the connections among neurons and between neurons and other cells. The biomimetic polymers would then guide the growth of the regenerating nerve.

There is currently no treatment for recovering human nerve function after injury to the brain or spinal cord because central nervous system neurons have a very limited capability of self-repair and regeneration.

Regeneration in the central nervous system requires neural activity, not just neuronal growth factors alone, so we thought a neurotransmitter might send the necessary signals, said Yadong Wang, assistant professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and principal investigator of the study. The research was supported by Georgia Tech, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

Chemical neurotransmitters relay, amplify and modulate signals between a neuron and another cell. This new study shows that integrating neurotransmitters into biodegradable polymers results in a biomaterial that successfully promotes neurite growth, which is necessary for victims of central nervous system injury, stroke or certain neurodegenerative diseases to recover sensory, motor, cognitive or autonomic functions.

Wang and graduate student Christiane Gumera developed novel biodegradable polymers with a flexible backbone that allowed neurotransmitters to be easily added as a side chain. In its current form, the polymer would be implanted via surgery to repair da
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News  
Source:Eurekalert

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