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Neuro-Nano Research

Nerve regeneration and nano-safety
We are interested in peripheral nerve regeneration after injury, and how nanomaterials and free nanoparticles (structures and materials significantly smaller than 1 millionth of a meter) affect cells and organisms.

Peripheral nerve regeneration

Historically our group has focused on peripheral nerve regeneration after injury, regarding all aspects of valerian regeneration such as guiding the sprouting axons and exploring the signal transduction pathways in both neurons and Schwann cells. This research has rendered over 90 publications i.e. Kanje et al, and is still an ongoing part of our activities in cooperation with hand surgeons at the Scania University Hospital and in the Lund University Neuronano Research Center (NRC). Starting in 2013, we also participate in an EU-project: “Neuroscaffolds- Rapid prototyping scaffolds for the nervous system" (EU Collaborative project FP7-NMP-2013-EU-China Grant Agreement no.604263). Here we study the effect of novel scaffolds on peripheral nerve regeneration in vivo using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology. The project is carried out in our lab and at NRC. Contact person for LU´s work package is Professor Jens Schouenborg at NRC. Funding: EU

Uptake of free nanoparticles - nanosafety

An important question is if and how nanomaterial in general and free nanoparticles in particular affect cells and organisms. We test this in various in vitro systems including cultures of cell lines, primary neurons and macrophages in organ cultures such as retina and dorsal root ganglia or in vivo. For evaluation of these studies we utilize immunohistochemistry, cell proliferation assays, and electron microscopy.

An image showing cultured cells that have taken up nano particles
A typical image of cells (green) after uptake of fluorescent particles (red, 500 nm polystyrene beads). The particles can be seen both inside and outside the cells

The particles tested are both in-house produced nanostructures e.g. Ni- Au- Polystyrene- and Galliumphosphide-nanowires or commercial available particles such as Au, Ag and polystyrene nanoparticles. We study the uptake, exposure routes of particles and the impact on cellular and tissue level in different aspects:

  • The Uptake of particles in dynamic cell culturing conditions, resembling a variety of pulsating systems i.e. lungs or blood vessels
  • The effect of nanoparticle exposure to human stem cells under proliferation and differentiation stages
  • The uptake and effects of nanoparticles in retinas
  • The macrophage/microglial response to nanoparticle exposure both in vivo and in vitro is emphasized

an image showing a fibroblast cell cultured on a plastic nanofiber
An electron microscope image of a fibroblast cultured on electrospun polylactic-acid-fibers, with numerous pseudopodia interacting with the fibers

Fundamental properties of nanoparticles make them highly interesting as drug delivery vehicles or as possible therapeutic agents: for example, their large reactive surface area and the ease with which they penetrate biological barriers. But these properties may also cause toxicity. Since The Nanometer Structure Consortium at Lund University produces many novel nanoparticles, the impact of these particles on biosystems is of great interest.

Funding: The Nanometer Structure Consortium at Lund University

Electrospinning - nano/micro fibers for biomedical studies

Using a custom made electrospinning device, we use nano/micro fibers for several studies in vivo and in vitro:

  • Nanofiber covered brain electrodes for better tissue/electrode integration
  • Axonal guidance of peripheral neurons
  • Differentiation and proliferation of human stem cells
  • 3D cell culturing

Previously we have used several different techniques to produce nanostructures for cell interfacing. Nano imprinting lithography, epitaxial grown nanowires, electrochemical etching for producing porous silicon has been used to study the effects on axon regeneration, guidance and anchoring to structures in vitro and on electrodes in vivo. Now, electrospinning is extensively used within tissue engineering and regenerative medicine due to the many advantages of this technique: high flexibility regarding the choice of materials - most polymers (both artificial and natural can be electrospun), arrangement, morphology and the size of the produced fibers are easily manipulated. The fiber mesh produced can be randomly ordered i.e. resembling natural connective tissue proper, or highly aligned, which facilitates cell and axonal alignment/guidance. Furthermore it is possible to incorporate drug delivery systems in such fibers. The inexpensive production and up scaling possibilities, are other promising properties of the technique.

Funding: The Crafoord Foundation and The Royal Physiographic Society in Lund

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