January 22, 2009
Research by Bioengineering Assistant Professor Seung-Wuk Lee that may someday help regenerate injured spinal cords was featured in MIT’s Technology Review this week.
Lee and his colleagues, including Bioengineering graduate student Anna Merzlyak, used a self-replicating, genetically engineered virus to create scaffolds that mimic supportive nerve tissue. The phage virus M13 was engineered to display nerve cell friendly proteins on its outer coating, then quantities of the virus were put into a solution of neural-progenitor cells. In solution, the viruses aligned themselves so that, when injected into a simple agar culture medium, they formed long, nerve-like fibers of virus scaffold surrounded by cells. The neural progenitor cells then multiplied and formed the long branches characteristic of neurons.
While this technique holds promise for nerve repair, it may also be used to grow more complex structures as well by varying the concentration or using magnetic fields to control position.
Next steps include animal trials to study the safety of phage scaffolds and how well they encourage nerve regeneration.
Read the full story at MIT Tech Review.