Research topic 2 In-vivo, neurons grow and develop in a 3D extracellular matrix (ECM). In order to mimic the natural environment of neurons, in bio-material and spatial arrangement, we develop 3D hydrogels for optimal neuronal growth. By controlling the external and internal structures of the gels, i.e. aligning the fibers as topographical cues, we optimize growth and direct regeneration. Specifically, we combine magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) within potentially-injectable collagen hydrogels and, by applying an external magnetic field during the gelation process, we're able to control MNP structure and gel fiber orientation. Both MNPs and gel fibers serve as guiding cues and drug carriers. In this project, we study several model systems, including mice DRG explants and isolated neurons, PC-12 cells and primary leech neurons, which show preferential direction of growth. We believe that this method may form the basis for post-injury controlled neuroregeneration medical applications.

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