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September 25, 2017   Columns Articles | Research News | Regenerative Bioscience Center researchers develop…
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Lohitash Karumbaiah is an assistant professor in UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. (Credit: Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA) Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski

Regenerative Bioscience Center researchers develop hydrogel that repairs traumatic brain injuries

Charlene Betourney

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By Charlene Betourney | September 25, 2017
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Researchers at the University of Georgia's Regenerative Bioscience Center have developed Brain Glue, a substance that could one day serve as a treatment for traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs.

The Brain Glue is a hydrogel matrix with a gelatin-like consistency that acts as a scaffolding for transplanted stem cells, which are capable of repairing damaged tissue. With the unique ability to take the shape of the void left in the brain after a severe trauma, the Brain Glue will enable a more natural healing environment for stem cells to colonize and regenerate.

Lohitash Karumbaiah, assistant professor in UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, led the team that designed and created Brain Glue. The main difference between Brain Glue and other synthetic hydrogels, according to the team, is the variety of possibilities to trap neural stem cells, improve integration and reduce the likelihood of rejection.

"It's very common with these invasive injuries that surgeons will actually remove the part of the dead brain leaving behind a cavity or hole," said Karumbaiah. "The question is, then, can you replace that with something like our Brain Glue, loaded up with compounds native to the brain together with a mix of protective agents that can be incorporated for the best therapeutic outcome.

"The cool thing about this chemistry is that you can take our Brain Glue liquid formulation and then very briefly expose it to long-wave UV light and form a hydrogel in any shape you like," he said.

Every day, 153 people in the U.S. die from injuries that include TBI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who survive a TBI may live with impaired thinking, memory, movement or sensation. TBIs also can lead to personality and emotional changes.

The new approach is described in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering and a recently awarded abstract from the International Brain Injury Association.

Steven Stice, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center, is working with Karumbaiah on a licensed technology for commercialization of the new Brain Glue, which was recently named best abstract at a meeting of the International Brain Injury Association.

Karumbaiah's work recently attracted a four-year, $1.5 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"Lohitash sets an example for other junior faculty to emulate," said Stice, GRA Eminent Scholar and D.W. Brooks Professor in CAES. "To be recognized internationally at such an early stage takes great skill and dedication."

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