Materials for Neuroscience
I am interested in creating and analysing new materials (also nanoscale materials) for applications in the field of neuroscience and in particular neurodegenerative disorders. At present neurodegenerative disorders lack any disease modifying therapies and whilst admittedly materials based approaches, such as the use of scaffolds and soft gels are at very early stages, they could impact upon our treatment of such diseases in the future.
Improve the survival of cells post transplantation to the adult rodent brain.
A Four Year Fellowship
I have been lucky to secure a fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, which allows me to undertake multidisciplinary research across the fields of materials science and neuroscience specifically aimed at improving the survival of cells post transplantation into the brain. Transplantation of embryonic ventral mesencephalic (VM) tissue to the damaged brain (particularly for Parkinson’s disease research) is the focus of much attention at academic institutions such as Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge. A wide range of other cell types, such as stem cells are also under investigation, not only for brain repair, but also for ex-vivo gene therapy research. However, graft survival is often poor following transplantation to the brain. For instance the work of my former co-supervisor Dr. Eilís Dowd, has shown that mesenchymal stem cell grafts deteriorate rapidly within the space of weeks.
The generous four year fellowship will allow me to synthesize, characterize and test new materials to assist the delivery of cells to the brain. Material synthesis, characterization and initial in vitro analysis will take place between the Max Bergmann Centre for Biomaterials (Dresden) and the Technical University of Dresden, under the supervision of Prof. Carsten Werner and Prof. Alexander Storch. Further analysis will take place at Cardiff University at the Brain Repair Group under supervision of Prof. Anne Rosser and Prof. Stephen Dunnett, with a period spent at Oxford University with Prof. Matthew Wood, to try to incorporate exosome mediated gene therapy.
Lastly, I would like to say a big thank you to Dr. Wenxin Wang (a key collaborator in the project), Prof. Anne Rosser and Prof. Stephen Dunnett for all their help with securing the Wellcome Trust fellowship.
As with most scientists in the field of biomaterials, their interests become ever-more broad, perhaps as they make a nice new material and then try to find a use for it! I am not immune from this phenomenon, and, as such my play time has resulted in several side projects:
– Synthesis of hyperbranched polymers for the analysis of their effect on the aggregation/fibrillation of α-synuclein, the Parkinson’s disease associated protein (see the work of Dr. Leo Breydo).
– Preparation of ROS scavenging materials.
– Development of injectable scaffolds for brain repair.
– Development of polymer nanotubes for a variety of anti-glioblastoma applications.
– Production of microscale synthetic hydrogels as an injectable delivery device.
– I am still interested in non-viral gene delivery to the adult brain, but this has been on the back burner recently, but will soon be underway again.
These are all in various depths of investigation, with varying degrees of success (or lack thereof in some cases!). More to follow.