A new 3-dimensional (3D) tissue model recreating interactions between cell types could provide valuable insight into how cells in the spinal cord repair after damage. The 3D cell culture system, developed by The Open University, mimics the cellular features of the spinal cord after damage, enabling scientists to study their behaviour in a similar way to how they normally function in the body.
The research, published in Tissue Engineering, shows how an interface develops between the injured and surrounding tissue after spinal cord injury. The interface inhibits neuronal regeneration, and this research will aid development of treatment to encourage repair.
Dr James Phillips, Lecturer in Health Sciences, explained: “Astrocytes are central nervous system (CNS) cells that normally support neuronal activity, but they change behaviour following damage and can inhibit regeneration. With our model, we can simulate the interaction between astrocytes and regenerating neurons after CNS injury.
By using the culture system, the research team can monitor both cell types continuously and control variables to test specific scientific questions. The 3D model provides a powerful new tool for neuroscience research and provides a new way to test the development of new therapies.
The authors are Emma East PhD, Jon P. Golding PhD and James B. Phillips PhD from The Open University Faculty of Science.
They received support from The Wellcome Trust.
The study will be published in Tissue Engineering, Part C, Vol 18, Iss 8 (August 2012), but is available online now (link right).