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Researchers create microfibers that support cell growth

AMES, Iowa, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Microfibers designed by Iowa State University scientists may help medical professionals reconnect nerves and regenerate damaged tissues.

The microfibers were designed as a scaffold to support the growth of neural stem cells, for potential use in U.S. Navy research into traumatic brain injury. Iowa State assistant professor Nastaran Hashemi says the microfibers have versatile medical applications.

“Neural stem cells on our polymer fibers could survive, differentiate and grow,” Hashemi said in a press release. “These new fibrous platforms could also be used for cell alignment which is important in applications such as guiding nerve cell growth, engineered neurobiological systems and regenerating blood vessels, tendons and muscle tissue.”

The microfibers are developed through microfluidic fabrication methods, pushing polycaprolactone, or PCL, through tiny channels. Once completed, the fibers measure 2.6 to 36.5 millions of a meter in diameter. Scientists are able to adjust their shapes and surface patterns.

“There is no high voltage, high pressure or high temperatures. And so one day I think we can encapsulate cells within our fibers without damaging them,” Hashemi said.

“The novelty here is the fabrication method,” Hashemi explained. “We employ hydrodynamic forces to influence the orientation of molecules for the fabrication of these fiber structures that have different properties along different directions.”

In addition to repairing damaged tissues and reconnect nerves, the study’s authors say their microfibers have the potential to expand their understanding of brain injury.

“We are interested in understanding how shock waves created by blows to the head can create microbubbles that collapse near the nerve cells, or neurons in the brain, and damage them,” Hashemi added.

The findings were published in the journal Biomacromolecules. The project was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the Iowa State Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research, and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

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