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A8.02 - New Materials for the Fabrication of Electroactive Nerve Guides 
December 3, 2014   2:00pm - 2:15pm

Damage to the peripheral nervous system by disease or trauma can have debilitating effects ranging from loss of sensation to paralysis. When such injuries occur, it is critical that they are treated quickly to reinnervate disconnected tissue before serious degradation occurs. Nerve guides are engineered structures designed to provide a channel that accelerates recovery by supporting and directing regenerating nerves, providing an alternative to autografts in clinical settings. In this work, we highlight new materials, testing platforms and fabrication processes being developed for electroactive nerve guides. The organic conductors PEDOT and graphene have been employed to deliver biphasic electrical pulses to neural modelling PC12 cells. Laser-cut electrodes in varying geometries allow for the distinct application of direct and field stimulation to cells in two and three dimensions. Fluorescence microscopy after staining against DAPI and ß-III tubulin identifies cell nuclei and extending neurites respectively, with differentiation rates and cell behaviour quantified using image analysis. For 3D culture, hydrogels based on the processable polysaccharide gellan gum have been investigated, coupling of this polymer to a short peptide containing the integrin binding RGD-sequence has been observed to significantly affect the attachment and differentiation behaviours of encapsulated cells. Additive fabrication processes that combine conductive and cell supporting elements as a single nerve guide structure will be discussed.

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