ChE Professor Ryan Koppes Featured in Materials Today for Research in Nerve Repair

Chemical Engineering Professor Ryan Koppes is featured in Materials Today for his research on peripheral nerve repair and artificial scaffolds.

The difficulty of repairing nerve damage and the negative life-long symptoms associated with it motivated Polina Anikeeva of MIT and Ryan Koppes of Northeastern to find a solution.

As an alternative to autografts, artificial scaffolds can support and guide the regrowth of neurons. All of the synthetic and biopolymer scaffolds used in patients so far have had a cylindrical cross-section, but there is mounting evidence that the size and shape of a scaffold can have a significant effect on cell growth.

Koppes remarks, “Our findings indicate that grooved fibers yield the fastest nerve growth, and there is a correlation between the alignment (i.e. how linear the growth is with respect to fiber axis) and distance. Neuronal processes inherently follow topographical features and incorporating those cues into synthetic nerve grafts is critical for a device intended for regeneration.”

The researchers used a technique common to fiber photonics, the thermal drawing process (TDP), to fabricate their scaffolds. Says Koppes, “One advantage of this technique is resulting features in the fiber can be incorporated in the macroscopic preform with standard machining techniques. Therefore, we do not need use expensive microfabrication techniques to get the same small features we achieve using thermal drawing. Thermal drawing further allows for incorporation of multiple material types and a high yield.”

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Related Departments:Chemical Engineering