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New materials for brain repair and neuronal regeneration

MAGBBRIS, a recently approved European project, which counts on the ICMAB-CSIC participation, will develop magnetic nano-biomaterials for brain repair and to obtaining images after a stroke. Another project led by the ICMAB-CSIC will develop new electroactive materials for neuronal regeneration.

The week 12-18 March 2018 has been the Brain Awareness Week (BAW), a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Every March, BAW unites the efforts of partner organizations worldwide in a celebration of the brain for people of all ages. To join the celebration, the ICMAB-CSIC has presented two  brain-related projects.

In the MAGBBRIS project, growth factors will be encapsulated in magnetic nano-biomaterials and transplanted into mice brains, with the guidance of magnetic fields, to induce tissue repair. Pictured, the image of a normal brain obtained by Magnetic resonance. Wikipedia.  Brain repair and obtaining images after a stroke

The  European project (EURONANOMED3 call) MAGBBRIS (New Magnetic Biomaterials for Brain Repair and Imaging after Stroke) aims to achieve tissue repair in the event of an ischemic attack by engineering novel magnetic nano-biomaterials.

The scientists work to demonstrate that growth factors secreted by endothelial progenitor cells, having proven potential to induce tissue repair, can be encapsulated in these magnetic nano-biomaterials and successfully and safely transplanted into mice brains, with the guidance of magnetic fields, to induce tissue repair.

The project will provide an advanced therapy that could be translated to a clinical stage as noninvasive, safe and available to most stroke patients. Biomaterials will be fully validated including among others aspects cytotoxicity and therapeutic properties both in vitro and in vivo; advanced imaging techniques (PET, MRI and Optical Imaging) will be used to monitor and guide the delivery of the biomaterials and to assess the therapeutic effect in vivo over time in a mouse model of cerebral ischemia.

The project consortium is made up of a highly multidisciplinary, with materials-science, biomedical and clinical research and industrial partnership. The project is coordinated by Dr. Anna Rosell, from Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), and has the following partners: Prof. Anna Roig, Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB); Fabien Gosselet, University of Artois (France); Maria Picchio, Ospedale San Raffaele IRCCS (Italy); Filip Jelen, Pure Biologics Ltd. (Poland); Peter Kopcansky, Institute of experimental physics, SAS (Slovakia).

According to the World Health Organization, 15 million persons suffer a stroke worldwide each year. However, the only available treatment is the acute thrombolytic therapy (pharmacological or mechanical) which is being administered to less than 10 percent of stroke patients due to strict selection criteria. In contrast, neuro-repair treatments could offer the opportunity to include most stroke patients by extending the therapeutic time window.

Central rervous system stimulation and repair

Electrical stimulation may affect functional neural behavior, and may favor neural repair. Both aspects require biocompatible electrodes that prevent radical formation, protect the living system from the electric field effects, and have a large charge capacity. This project has allowed to create new hybrid electroactive materials formed by iridium oxide and graphene, with 100-fold increase in capacity versus the usual platinum found clinically for Parkinson/epilepsia/TOC diseases. These electrodes allow the application of direct fields for neural repair. Moreover, the graphene contributes with some very interesting properties to the electrodes: an increased stability and a larger charge capacity.

Results in vitro prove that neural repair is possible, in 40 minutes electrostimulation and controlling the charge delivered

Recent results prove that neural repair is possible in vitro, in very short stimulation times (40 minutes), and with direct field electrostimulation, controlling the charge delivered. Significantly, electric field effects are highly dependent on the electrode material used, and it is found that, over many materials tested, neural repair is optimal for iridium oxide-graphene hybrid electrodes.

The implications of these results suggest that this system may have an immediate use in safer electrostimulation procedures, and may open routes for much needed neural repair. Two American companies are already interested in electrostimulation and in this work, and a patent about the electrical stimulation has been filed. Currently, experiments are being performed in vivo in collaboration with the Faculty of Sciences and Medicine of the University of Valencia.

This field of research, lead by Prof. Nieves Casañ, of the ICMAB-CSIC, started in 2005, and has been going on since then with Spanish and European funding, and also received funding from "La Marató de TV3" (2012-2014). The Spanish "Plan Nacional" project entitled "Desarrollo de materiales electroactivos nanostructurados y recubrimientos: electrodos y estimulación eléctrica in vitro e in vivo" is the current funding source. In total, the research has been financed with 2.5 million euros,  and apart of the ICMAB, the Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona, the Institute of Medical Sciences Aberdeen (United Kingdom) and the University of Valencia are also part of the consortium.