Electrically Active Neural Biomaterials

Justin T. Seil and Thomas J. Webster

Abstract Numerous biomaterials have provided promising results toward improving the function of nervous system tissue. However, significant hurdles, such as delayed or incomplete tissue regeneration, remain toward full functional recovery of peripheral and central nervous system (CNS) tissue. Because of this continual need for better nervous system biomaterials, more recent approaches to design the next generation of tissue engineering scaffolds for the nervous system have incorporated nanotechnology, or more specifically, nanoscale surface feature dimensions which mimic that of the natural neural tissue. Compared to conventional materials with micron scale surface dimensions, nanomaterials have exhibited an ability to enhance desirable neural cell activity while minimizing unwanted cell activity, such as reactive astrocyte activity in the CNS. The complexity of neural tissue injury and the presence of inhibitory cues as well as the absence of stimulatory cues may require multifaceted treatment approaches with customized biomaterials that nanotechnology can provide. A combination of stimulatory cues may be used to incorporate nanoscale topographical and chemical or electrical cues in the same scaffold to provide an environment for tissue regeneration that is superior to inert scaffolds. Ongoing research in the field of electrically active nanomaterials includes the fabrication of composite materials with nanoscale, piezoelectric zinc oxide particles embedded into a polymer matrix. Zinc oxide, when mechanically deformed through ultrasound, for example, can theoretically provide an electrical stimulus, a known stimulatory cue for neural tissue regeneration. The combination of nanoscale surface dimensions and electrical activity may provide an environment for enhanced neural tissue regeneration; such multifaceted nanotechnology approaches deserve further attention in the neural tissue regeneration field.

Keywords Nanomaterials • Nanoparticles • Neural tissue regeneration • Zinc oxide • Piezoelectric

School of Engineering, Brown University, 182 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02917, USA e-mail: [email protected]

T.J. Webster (ed.), Nanotechnology Enabled In situ Sensors for Monitoring Health, 95

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7291-0_5, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

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