The main goal of the project is to use sterolithography (SL) to manufacture unique nerve guide conduits (NGC) for repair of peripheral nerve damage. Specifically, the investigators will develop multi-lumen conduits from photopolymerizable poly ethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogels that are laden with growth factors and produced with geometry that is presently unavailable from commercial SL systems. It is hypothesized that the bioactive NGCs produced using this technology will be a significant improvement over single-lumen and other existing approaches by providing greater surface area available for supporting cells, additional pathways for axons and potential for increased nerve ''communication'' through precise placement of bioactive agents and cells. The research as four specific aims: (1) Install a SL unit within a biosafety cabinet and make specific modifications that will improve the micro-fabrication capabilities, (2) Synthsize and characterize the PEG scaffolds, (3) Fabricate bioactive scaffolds and conduct in vitro cell viability evaluations, and (4) Examine ability for PEG scaffolds to support nerve generation using a rat model.
The project has the potential to lead to ''tailored'' nerve guidance channels that would advance the state of the art in this field significantly. The educational and outreach activities include support for underrepresented Hispanic students, through University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and the W.M. Keck Center.