Although, Brain injuries are common, they are expensive and difficult to treat. The brain damage that accompanies a significant Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) typically involves extensive loss of tissue, impaired thinking, memory, movement or sensation, sometimes leading to long-term disabilities as well as personality and emotional changes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every day, 153 people in the U.S. die from injuries that include TBI.
In a new study, Researchers at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center have developed a potential new treatment for TBI, a hydrogel they call a ‘Brain Glue.’ This gel seems to help stop the loss of brain tissue after a severe injury occurs, and may also help promote restorative processes. The new research is recorded in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering and a recently awarded abstract from the International Brain Injury Association.
The Brain Glue is a hydrogel matrix with a gelatin-like consistency that acts as scaffolding for transplanted stem cells, which are capable of repairing damaged tissue. With the unique ability to take the shape of the void left in the brain after a severe trauma, the Brain Glue will enable a more natural healing environment for stem cells to colonize and regenerate.
The main difference between ‘Brain Glue’ and other synthetic hydrogels, according to the team, is the variety of possibilities to trap neural stem cells, improve integration and reduce the likelihood of rejection.
The Lead Investigator and Associate Professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Lohitash Karumbaiah explained that the ‘brain glue’ was developed in 2017 as way to mimic the framework and function of sugar molecules that support brain cells.
“There are structures in the glue that attach to basic fibroblast growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, two molecules that help brain cells survive and continue to grow after severe TBI. Our work provides a holistic view of what’s going on in the recovery of the damaged region while the animal is accomplishing a specific reach-and-grasp task. Animal subjects that were implanted with the brain glue actually showed repair of severely damaged tissue of the brain. The animals also elicited a quicker recovery time compared to subjects without these materials,” he says.
Though his work used a rat model, Karumbaiah noted that the circuit in humans is similar and could help speed up clinical translation of brain glue for humans.
To measure the glue’s effectiveness, the team used a tissue-clearing method to make brain tissue optically transparent, which allowed them to visually capture the immediate response of cells in the reach-to-grasp circuit using a 3D imaging technique.
“Because of the tissue-clearing method, we were able to obtain a deeper view of the complex circuitry and recovery supported by brain glue,” said Karumbaiah. “Using these methods along with conventional electrophysiological recordings, we were able to validate that brain glue supported the regeneration of functional neurons in the lesion cavity.”
Previous work by Karumbaiah’s team has shown that the glue was protective and accelerates the delivery of the protective factors, improving function and regeneration.
“This study has been four to five years in the making. Our collaborative research is so painstakingly documented that, after you read about it, you have to believe there is new hope for severe victims of brain injury,” said first study author Charles Latchoumane, a researcher in the Karumbaiah lab that also works at NeurRestore in Lausanne, Switzerland.
With support from UGA’s Innovation Gateway, Karumbaiah has filed for a patent on the brain glue. He is also partnering with Parastoo Azadi, technical director of analytical services at the UGA Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, and GlycoMIP, a $23 million, National Science Foundation-funded Materials Innovation Platform, created to advance the field of glycomaterials through research and education.