14 December 2018

Fibroin against brain injuries

Scientists: Fibroin construction will help the brain recover from injuries

"Scientific Russia"

Employees of Lomonosov Moscow State University as part of a Russian research team studied the regeneration of brain tissues using a matrix of silk fibroin protein. Experiments on rats with brain damage have shown that this material is biologically compatible and promotes the speedy regeneration of nervous tissue. The results of the study were published on December 5 in the journal of Neurochemical Research (Moisenovich et al., Effect of Silk Fibroin on Neuroregeneration After Traumatic Brain Injury).

Brain tissue damage due to injuries, strokes and neurodegenerative processes is one of the main causes of disability of people in Western countries. And at the moment, in therapeutic practice, the arsenal of methods that promote the regeneration of brain tissue is very narrow. A team of Russian scientists led by Professor Dmitry Zorov of Moscow State University decided to test protein microstructures made of silk fibroin as a framework for the restoration of nervous tissue and check its biological compatibility. 

"Fibroin as a material for tissue engineering has unique properties," says one of the authors of the study, a leading researcher at the A.N. Belozersky Research Institute of Physico–Chemical Biology of Moscow State University Egor Plotnikov. – On the one hand, it is very easy to form any three-dimensional structures with specified parameters (pore size, fiber direction) from it. On the other hand, the protein carries unique amino acid motifs that are necessary for neurons to perceive their environment and to convert information from the microenvironment into signals for growth, migration and differentiation."

First, scientists tested a sponge-like framework made of silk fibroin on a culture of neurons. Experiments have shown that nerve cells isolated from the body successfully grow on such a framework and fill it. As a result, a structure similar in spatial organization to brain tissue is formed. Experiments on cell cultures have also confirmed the biological compatibility of silk fibroin and nerve cells. 

Then the scientists conducted experiments on rats. The animals were divided into three groups: rats from the first group simply had a skull trepanation, from the second – a small area in the motor cortex of the left hemisphere was damaged. The third was inserted into the area of damage to the motor cortex on the day after the operation, a fibroin frame was inserted. In rats with damaged bark, disturbances in the movement of the limbs on the right side were observed. All animal experiments were conducted in accordance with international bioethical standards. 

To assess the regeneration of nerve tissues in the area of injury, scientists observed the restoration of motor function of the right limbs of rats. After the motor experiment, the scientists also studied by microscopy how the nerve tissue regenerated in the area of injury. Then the results of motor tests and analysis of the morphology of tissue and cells at the site of injury were compared.

Motor tests showed that in rats with a fibroin frame at the injury site on the fourth day after surgery, the activity of the right limbs is 25% better compared to injured rats without a frame. In addition, fibroin microstructure transplantation reduces the volume of the lesion area by 30% compared to the control group. Thus, the results of experiments on mice proved that the fibroin framework helps brain tissues recover from damage faster and more efficiently.

Now scientists plan to further study fibroin microstructures in order to introduce them into neurosurgical practice. "It is necessary to develop ways to integrate a tissue-engineered structure into the nervous tissue, which would ensure maximum engraftability of the matrix and the formation of a full-fledged nervous tissue at the site of the defect with its help. The brain is a very poorly regenerating organ, so we will analyze the possibilities of the influence of scaffolds on the differentiation and migration of resident brain stem cells. If these stages are successful, that is, this technology can enter the stage of experimental design development," concludes Yegor Plotnikov.

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