SC BioCRAFT

Project II

Ken Webb

Biomaterials for Guided Neural Regeneration

Target Investigator
Dr. Ken Webb
Associate Professor of Bioengineering
Clemson University

Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in permanent motor and sensory deficits due to the inability of damaged axons to successfully regenerate in the adult central nervous system (CNS). The objective of this project is the development of acellular, biomaterial scaffolds to stimulate and direct axonal regeneration across SCI lesion sites, ultimately leading to re-innervation of distal target tissues and functional recovery.

The biomaterial design will be modeled on the physical and biochemical mechanisms for axonal growth and guidance provided by supporting glial cell populations during CNS development and successful regeneration in the peripheral nervous system. Specifically, novel deep groove polymer fibers with micrometer-scale, parallel surface channels will provide topographic directional guidance for axonal regeneration. Slowly degrading hydrogel coatings will provide adhesive and trophic support for neuronal survival and axonal regeneration through immobilization of L1 neural cell adhesion molecule and controlled release of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3).

Our overall hypothesis is that biomaterials synergistically incorporating topographic, adhesive, and trophic stimuli will achieve levels of bioactivity for in vitro and in vivo axonal regeneration comparable to olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG), one of the most effective cell types for transplantation studied to date.

Specific aims are:

  • To create acellular scaffolds for axonal regeneration integrating topographic, adhesive, and trophic bioactivity
  • To evaluate the bioactivity of engineered biomaterial fibers relative to OEG
  • To directly compare anatomical regeneration elicited by engineered biomaterials and OEG in a rat dorsal hemisection injury model

Relative to many transplantation-based approaches, biomaterial scaffolds offer reproducibility, immunological compatibility, and may be packaged and stably stored for extended periods, suggesting the potential for an "off-the-shelf" therapy.

Please click here for more information about Dr. Webb's laboratory.