Russian Scientists Create Hydrogel to Restore Brain Function

  • The new matrix seems to be able to prevent the metastasis of malignant brain tumors.
  • The new product can be used for targeted drug delivery.
  • The findings are in the early stages.

Russian scientists from the Far Eastern Federal University have developed a hydrogel that can be used to restore the nervous tissue of the brain after damage. The new product is also useful for fighting malignant tumors and targeted drug delivery. Russian scientists have developed a hydrogel that can be used as an artificial matrix.

Far Eastern Federal University is a university located in Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai, Russia. FEFU was established in 1899 as the Eastern Institute as a higher education institution specializing in oriental studies and training for administrative, commercial and industrial institutions in the Far East.

The space between living cells is filled with a special substance-the extracellular matrix. The two main components of  this matrix are carbohydrates and proteins. The basis of this hydrogel is plant polysaccharides pectins.

As shown by experiments in vitro, the new substance stimulates the restoration of damaged nerve tissue. It has a beneficial effect on the body’s natural protective reserve – stem cells that turn into nerve cells and replace the dead neurons.

This property can be used to combat the effects of injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, the new matrix seems to be able to prevent the metastasis of malignant brain tumors.

The fact is that the cells of many tissues can move using the extracellular matrix as a support. But for this, the matrix must be quite rigid: as you know, you can only rely on what resists. A protein component gives it rigidity. The matrix of the nervous system is dominated by carbohydrates, not proteins.

Therefore, it is a viscous mass that resembles marmalade in consistency and chemical composition. In this matrix, the neurons are unable to migrate, and this is very good, because such trips are fraught with the rupture of inter-neural connections, which store all the information accumulated in our memory.

Unfortunately, cancer cells are able to circumvent this obstacle. They independently add protein to the extracellular matrix, literally making their way. This is why even a few cancer cells that remain after the removal of the tumor can “escape” and metastasize to other parts of the body.

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The new matrix, carbohydrate in its composition, prevents the migration of cancer cells. In addition, it suppresses their reproduction.

The full work  titled “Chapter Four – Hydrogels based on modified pectins capable of modulating neural cell behavior as prospective biomaterials in glioblastoma treatment”  is available here.

The introduction of such a matrix to the site of cancer removal could solve two problems at once. First, it is to counteract the remaining cancer cells, and second, to restore healthy neural tissue from stem cells. As one scientist put it:

“Of course, bioengineering solutions related to the use of extracellular matrices from pectins need to be thoroughly tested. However, we expect that in the future, our hydrogels can be implanted in the area of resection of a brain tumor to kill the remaining tumor cells after surgery, while preserving the potential of healthy cells for further recovery.”

But this is not all. The new product can be used for targeted drug delivery. Kumeyko explains:

“The matrix implanted after the removal of the tumor with a predominance of the carbohydrate component will not only restrain the growth and spread of cells, but will also be perfectly suitable as a means of delivering highly toxic drugs. Such drugs will be released from it gradually, causing less damage to the body as a whole and killing the remaining tumor cells.”

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the state of Russian cancer research and the new cutting age advancements in the field. Russia is not strong in the medical field. However, this has a potential of being a success. Clearly, the findings are in the early stages and have a long process ahead.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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