New Biomaterial Called Best Hope For Growing Nerves


June 22, 2000

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) - Scientists at MIT and New York University say they have discovered a new biomaterial on which to grow nerves for repairing damaged brains.

The material, made from self-assembling molecules, could be sown with billions of nerve cells and implanted into the brain or spinal cord. The material would then degrade, leaving just the new nerves.

The material, known as EAK16, not only accepts nerves, but appears not to cause inflammation or rejection when implanted into the body.

"The reason this material is so interesting and unique is that we can individually tailor it to grow virtually every type of cell in the body" for tissue engineering, said Shuguang Zhang, associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Zhang and Todd C. Homes, a former MIT researcher now at NYU, wrote about the new biomaterial in the June 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Robert Langer, professor at MIT and a pioneer in the field of tissue engineering, called the report of the new biomaterial interesting, but said its performance needs further testing.

Zhang first synthesized the new biomaterial about 10 years ago, and Holmes then discovered its useful properties, the researchers said in interviews.

The material is 99 percent water, and the remaining 1 percent is interlocked molecules called peptides that are the building blocks of all proteins. A solution of these peptides in water will assemble themselves if salt is added.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.