Injuries in the peripheral nervous system are an important health problem and their treatment is now a challenge for medicine. A great part of the current treatments is based on surgery, but these interventions are not enough to reestablish the lost functions.
A new study published in the journal Cells, and led by the experts José Antonio del Río and Arnau Hervera, from the Faculty of Biology, the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB (UBNeuro) and IBEC, presents a device to study and repair injuries in the nervous system by combining two technologies based on bioengineering: microfluidics and optogenetics. Other participants in the study are the experts from the IBEC Nanobioengineering Group, led by Josep Samitier, director of the mentioned center and professor at the Department of Electronic Engineering and Biomedicine of the UB.
With this innovative protocol, experts found out that the muscle sends regenerative signals to the neurons to promote their reconnection and reestablish the lost functions and protocol after an injury. “This discovery allows us to better understand the underlying mechanisms to the injuries in motor neurons, a type of cells that produce the stimuli to provoke the contraction of different muscle groups in the organism. The discovery opens the window so that in the future, researchers can improve the effects of the current rehabilitation treatments”, notes the postdoctoral researcher Arnau Hervera.
The new study also shows there is an increase of the muscle activity, which is able to induce axonal regeneration, which is necessary for the lost functions to reestablish after an injury. The authors highlight the potential use of this methodology to shape the study of other illnesses in the nervous system such as the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the origin of which is related to the death of motor neurons.
“The platform we designed allows us to put two types of different cells –neuronal and muscle- in the same device and modulate their activity through light stimuli”, notes José Antonio del Río, professor at the Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the UB, head of the IBEC Molecular Neurobiology Group and member of the Network Center for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED).