Stanford creates gel for neural stem cell regeneration: 6 things to know

Megan Wood -   Print  |

Sarah Heilshorn, PhD, a Stanford (Calif.) University associate professor of materials science and engineering, authored a paper in Nature Materials about growing and preserving neural stem cells, according to Stanford News.

Here are six things to know:


1. The task of growing neural stem cells so they can mature in various cell types proves challenging. Dr. Heilshorn notes the process requires an expansive amount of space, energy and nutrients.


2. Further, Dr. Heilshorn writes that after cells have divided in a lab dish, it is difficult to maintain the stem cells so they mature into other cell types.


3. To overcome these hurdles, Dr. Heilshorn's lab created a polymer-based gel which creates a 3-D, as opposed to a 2-D, growing space. The 2-D environment needs more than 100 times the amount of space required by the 3-D process.


4. Additionally, the 3-D technique relies on fewer nutrients and less energy compared to the 2-D process.


5. The gel helps stem cells keep contact with each other to "preserve critical communication channels between cells," Stanford News reports. If cells lose the ability to communicate, they can't regenerate.


6. With promising results, Dr. Heilshorn plans to develop gels for direct injection from the lab into the body.


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