This project will produce an electrochemical device to induce central nervous system (CNS) repair, based on electroactive materials, electrical field (EF) stimulation and axonal growth promotion.
The device will be tested in vitro with cultured cells and brain-spinal cord preparations from amphibians and rodents. Pilot in vivo experiments with a rat model of spinal cord injury will take place at the end of the project.
We aim to develop a three-dimensional scaffold (3D-S) with defined structural and electrochemical properties that supports neural cell function, avoids cytotoxicity and inflammation and guides growing axons through lesion sites. The 3D-S will be made from electroactive materials that, besides giving structural support, will permit the application of EFs to promote regrowth of axons and modulate redox reactions in cell/material interfaces. We will focus on organic conducting polymers (polypyrrole) and biodegradable poly-(trimethylene carbonate/e-caprolactone, P(TMC-CL)) copolymers, alone and as composites with titanium and iridium oxides. Materials will be synthesised by chemistry methods that tune the electrochemical potential of the active surface.
Material performance will be studied in electrochemical devices with physiological fluids, neural, endothelial and inflammatory cells and CNS preparations. The optimisation of material structure and electrochemical activity will culminate in the production of a 3D-S seeded with neural cells and equipped with electrodes to promote CNS repair. Device configurations with varied stimulating electrode arrangements will be tested. Material surfaces and biomaterial interfaces will be characterized using state-of-the-art technologies including AFM and XPS. Neural responses will be quantified by using fluorescent tracers, optical and electron microscopy and bioimpedance spectroscopy. Raman/SERS and scanning electrochemical microscopy will be used to monitor cell chemical state and redox reactions.
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