Next Generation: Neuronal Monkey Bars

Three-dimensional scaffolds for growing and guiding neurons are getting smaller and more tailored in design.

Kerry Grens
Kerry Grens
Sep 23, 2011

Primary rat hippocampal cells grow along a scaffold.IMAGE COURTESY OF JENNIFER N. HANSON SHEPHERD, SARA T. PARKER, ROBERT F. SHEPHERD, MARTHA GILLETTE, JENNIFER A. LEWIS, AND RALPH G. NUZZO.

THE DEVICE: Using a laser aimed at a polymer called polylactide, researchers have been able to fabricate a 3-D scaffold that's biodegradable, biocompatible, and on a scale that neurons can wrap their arms around. The scaffolds can provide a frame for studying neuronal regeneration in vitro or for repairing lacerated peripheral nerves in vivo.

In one design, Frederik Claeyssens at the University of Sheffield and his colleagues created a scaffold resembling a set of monkey bars with gaps between the rungs of 10 to 20 micrometers. They found that neurons attached to the bars and extended neurites along them, according to the report published this week in Biofabrication.

The laser works by “writing” a structure into a material. In...