Recent successes of tissue bioengineering in ophthalmology highlighted

November 11, 2007

Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, PhD, a research scientist in the department of brain and cognitive sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, describes his work as reconnecting disconnected parts of the brain. He has done just that by using nanotechnology restore visual function in a damaged area of the brain in rodents.

Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, PhD, a research scientist in the department of brain and cognitive sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, describes his work as reconnecting disconnected parts of the brain. He has done just that by using nanotechnology restore visual function in a damaged area of the brain in rodents.

Dr. Ellis-Behnke and his team at MIT conducted in vivo experiments in young and adult hamsters. After making a deep cut in the superior colliculus, the researchers injected a clear substance containing a self-assembling material made of peptides. This serves as a matrix for new cell growth. The researchers observed new axon growth first in young animals, then carried out a similar experiment in adults in a way that removed all visually-guided orienting behavior, Dr. Ellis-Behnke said.

Six weeks after the cut was made, the researchers began testing the animals and found complete regeneration and functional vision in all but two of the treated animals. In those two, the lack of improvement apparently was due to surgical error, Dr. Ellis-Behnke said. While the animals displayed some signs of healing, it was insufficient to drive their behavior.

In separate experiments, Dr. Ellis-Behnke and colleagues showed that axon growth could be seen in live animals.

Ultimately, they hope to apply these findings on self-assembling peptides and axon growth to humans, Dr. Ellis-Behnke concluded.

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