Could This New Brain Gel Lead to TBI Breakthroughs?

A recent scientific breakthrough has allowed scientists to grow neurons and axons in synthetic brain tissue for more than two months. The discovery may help brain injury researchers track tissue damage and recovery without invasive surgery.

Details about the experimentwere published inthe scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists built a scale model of the brain using rings of a spongy silk protein along with a collagen-based gel.

The structure provided a “scaffold” for developing brain cells to climb, and the gel gave the cells room to connect to each other. The tissue remained viable for nine weeks, much longer than collagen or hydrogel alone.

Scientists “seeded” thousands of lab-grown rat neurons in the synthetic tissue, hoping they would grow and spread like real neurons. The cells not only grew at an outstanding rate, they responded to trauma the same way neurons do in human brains.

What Happens After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

When researchers inflicted damage on the brain under controlled conditions, the neurons responded by releasing high levels of glutamate and sending out spikes of electrical impulses. The reaction was similar to the damage caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a promising development for brain injury researchers.

One scientist said the goal for most 3D artificial tissues is six months of viability, so the new material has a long way to go before it is widely used. However, researchers are confident that being able to track tissue response in real time will help them develop more effective TBI treatments in the future.

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