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Brain damage and neurodegenerative disease are disabling conditions that affect many millions of patients and their families. Yet, there is very little currently that can be done to reverse the effects of brain damage. Our laboratory is therefore investigating if replacing some of the cells that have been lost with transplanted neural stem cells (i.e. the cells that typical produce the brain during development) can provide some recovery. However, eventually we hope to have formulated methods that will allow us to regenerate lost brain tissue. The challenges for this are, nevertheless, considerable and we are but taking the very first steps in a long marathon to achieve this!

One key feature of tissue engineering in the brain will be to inject cells and biomaterials into the right location where the damage is. The skull, however, prevents us from easily seeing these locations and we therefore need to use non-invasive imaging techniques that can peek deep into tissues. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) are two of these techniques that we can use in our feasibility studies on animals, but the same techniques can also eventually be used on patients. Apart from locating where we need to inject our materials, we also need to devise novel imaging methods that will allow us to identify the materials we injected and to monitor its development from a cells and biomaterials mixture into an integrated and functional brain tissue.

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