After two years of research, a group of Swedish scientists has been able to grow human nerve cells on nanocellulose. The study could result in 3-D artificial models of the brain for brain research and biocomputers.
Nanocellulose consists of nanosized cellulose fibres and its typical dimensions are widths of 5 to 20 nm and lengths of up to 2,000 nm.
The researchers are from Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) and the University of Gothenburg. The project was a challenge and it was difficult to attach the cells to the scaffold, according to a Chalmers press release. After making the nerve cells more positively charged, they finally attached to the scaffold and started generating contact with each other. This allowed the researchers to use electrical impulses and chemical signal substances to generate nerve impulses and study how the nerve cells react with other molecules.
Nanocellulose allows nerve cells to grow in a 3-D matrix, creating more a realistic environment than with cell cultivation, according to Paul Gatenholm, Professor of Biopolymer Technology at Chalmer. Nanocellulose has other potential biomedical applications. Several projects on nanocellulose are being conducted in collaboration with Chalmers and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm). Gatenholm’s research group has previously used it to create artificial blood vessels.
The study results will be presented at the American Chemical Society meeting, which takes place in San Diego on 25 March.Camilla Andersson