2D AND 3D ENGINEERED PLATFORMS FOR NEURONAL INTERFACES AND REGENERATION
In our lab, we use modified 2D and 3D substrates as a method for affecting growth, in order to investigate the neuronal growth and regeneration mechanisms. A key process in neuronal guidance is the ability of the sensory-motile growth cones at the tips of growing processes to measure environmental cues and use them for growth. In order to study the mechanisms involved in the interactions between neurons and topographically-structured substrates, we fabricate 2D cues at the nanometric scale by photolithography patterning, similar to the scale of cytoskeletal elements in cells.
In addition, we develop 3D platforms for regeneration 3D hydrogels. We mimic the natural environment of neurons. By controlling the external and internal structures of the gels, i.e. aligning the fibers as topographical cues, we optimize growth and direct regeneration. For example, we combine magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) within potentially-injectable collagen hydrogels and, by applying an external magnetic field we are able to control MNP structure and gel fiber orientation. Both MNPs and gel fibers serve as guiding cues and drug carriers. We use other methods to control the organization of neurons and their environment. We believe that these methods may form the basis for post-injury controlled neuroregeneration medical applications.