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In the 1980s researchers showed that damaged nerves in the spinal cord have the ability to regrow. Chemical engineers contribute to the field of spinal cord repair by developing biomaterial scaffolds that support cell and nerve growth inside the body after an injury. In the research project explained by LAURA DE LAPORTE in this video, such scaffolds were developed and tested: The special architecture of the developed structures uses oriented channels to guide the nerves to grow across the site of injury. Moreover, delivering DNA via the scaffolds resulted in growth of specific proteins that further stimulated the nerve cells to grow.
The research project shows that the developed scaffolds can be used twofold: As an architecture, a physical help for the nerves to grow, but also to deliver significant crucial growth factors that are necessary to further stimulate spinal cord repair.


Laura De Laporte is a Junior Research Group Leader at the Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials, at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Her fields of expertise are biotechnology, biomaterials, and animal surgery.

In 2009, De Laporte received her PhD from Northwestern University, working on the use of biomaterials in the field of tissue engineering. More specifically, De Laporte examined post-injury spinal chord regeneration. In her current research project, De Laporte continues to work on this topic, looking at how biomaterial scaffolds can be developed to aid the regenerative process.


DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials

Research at DWI – Leibniz-Institut für Interaktive Materialien e.V. (DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials) focuses on the development of materials with active and adaptive properties, after being founded in 1952 with an original emphasis on keratin research and protein chemistry. The capability for active adaptation and interactivity is one of the most profound challenges of today’s materials research and will ultimately lead to the evolution of structural via functional to intelligent materials. At DWI scientists with backgrounds in polymer sciences, biotechnology and chemical engineering closely collaborate on mastering this challenge. The research approach at DWI is based on integrating molecular components, whose structure and dynamics are orchestrated by complex interactions on various length scales, into macroscopic materials, devices and in the end systems. For exceeding the passive functionalities of existing materials, DWI researches on switchable material properties, the application of memory effects, the integration of energy conversion systems, as well as on internal feedback mechanisms. Beyond materials aspects the DWI team aims at an integration of active characteristics into interacting material systems. The fields of application are diverse, dealing with surface finishing, biomedical technology, biotechnology and sustainable chemical engineering. ( Source )
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Original publication

Plasmid Releasing Multiple Channel Bridges for Transgene Expression after Spinal Cord Injury

De Laporte Laura, Yang Yang, Zelivyanskaya Marina L., Cummings Brian J., Anderson Aileen J. and Shea Lonnie D.
Molecular Therapy
Published in 2009

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