People with paralysis and other physical disabilities are walking again due to the development of a robotic exoskeleton. It is the creation of Homayoon Kazerooni, a robotics engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team of researchers. Their work focuses on the control of human-machine systems specific to lower human extremities. See more in this Science of Innovation video.
Credit: NBC Learn, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation
Every year, nearly 6.2 million bone fractures occur in the United States as a result of trauma and disease. Hongjun Wang, a professor in the department of chemistry, chemical biology and biomedical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, and his collaborators have developed a revolutionary "bottom-up" approach for reconstructing intricate bone tissue with the potential to form hierarchical cortical bone. Find out more in this news story.
Credit: Hongjun Wang, Stevens Institute of Technology
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a technique using sugar filaments spun like cotton candy and coated with a polymer to create a scaffold of tiny synthetic tubes that might serve as conduits to regenerate nerves severed in accidents or damaged by disease. Find out more in this news story.
Credit: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Basic Medical Sciences; Center for Paralysis Research, Purdue University
The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport (CBET) Systems of the Directorate for Engineering supports research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of bioengineering and environmental engineering and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.
A new mechanism for guiding the growth of nerves that involves cell death machinery has been found by scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno, that may bring advances in neurological medicine and research.
University of California, San Diego, bioengineers have demonstrated in a study on pigs that a new injectable hydrogel can repair damage from heart attacks, help the heart grow new tissue and blood vessels, and get the heart moving closer to how a healthy heart should.
August 26, 2013
Helping the body regrow nerves
New strategy for restoring nerve function
Combat, cancer and accidents--all can cause devastating nerve injuries. Sometimes, the body heals on its own.
"Your peripheral nerves, the ones in the arms and the face, have an inherent ability to regenerate, but only under ideal circumstances," says University of Florida biomedical engineer Christine Schmidt.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Schmidt and her team are working to restore nerve function when injuries are more complicated. Surgeons can sometimes move a nerve from one part of a patient's body to another. Schmidt has developed a method that grafts cadaver tissue onto the damaged area to act as a scaffold for nerves to re-grow themselves.
"This medical application has been made possible by developing new tissue engineering methods and by understanding how cells interact with their surroundings," notes Friedrich Srienc, director of the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.
Schmidt and her team are also looking at other approaches to directly stimulate nerve growth using as building blocks the natural sugar molecules found in the body. That would eliminate the need to transplant tissue. While the ultimate goal in nerve regeneration is reversing paralysis, Schmidt says intermediate successes, such as improving lung or bladder function, can be invaluable to patients and their families.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #0829166, "Direct Write" Techniques to Create Submicron, Arbitrary Protein Structures within Hyaluronan Hydrogels; NSF award #0805298, Crystal Templated Polysaccharide Hydrogels; NSF award #9733156, CAREER: Understanding the Molecular Mechanics of Growth Cone Motility and Nerve Regeneration; NSF award #0201744, Angiogenic Hydrogel Biomaterials to Promote Nerve Regeneration; and NSF Award #0500969, Hyaluronan-based Materials and Size-dependent Mechanisms of Wound Healing.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.