Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Chemical Engineering

Advisor/Mentor

Almodovar, Jorge

Committee Member/Reader

Hestekin, Jamie

Committee Member/Second Reader

Clausen, Edgar

Committee Member/Third Reader

Beitle, Robert (Bob)

Committee Member/Fourth Reader

Walker, Heather

Abstract

Often in the aftermath of an injury or surgery, the sense of touch and muscle control is lost in the affected area as nerves are damaged or severed and fail to grow back completely. The regeneration of the nerve cells can be promoted by treating the nerves with nerve conduits. Nerve conduits are hollow cylinders of bio-compatible materials that can be surgically implanted to the disconnected nerve to promote and direct the growth of nerves. The objectives of this research are to investigate the ability of nerve conduits treated with layer-by-layer coatings to promote the growth of Schwann cells, to manufacture nerve conduits in the lab, and to compare the performance the home-made conduits to those available on the market. Nerve conduits were manufactured by electrospinning solutions of collagen to create a solid film of collagen fibers only several millimeters thick. The film can be shaped into a cylindrical nerve conduit. The nerve conduits are then submerged in alternating solutions of collagen and heparin to create a thin, polyelectrolytic coating on the surface of the fibers. The viability of the nerve conduits are evaluated by growing cultures of human Schwann cells on the conduits and then measuring and comparing the proliferation of the cultures on the conduits with and without coatings. In reference to the stated objectives of the research: It was shown in each of the experiments that the conduits with coatings performed better than those without coatings, sometimes by as much as double the number of cells grown. Nerve conduits were consistently and successfully manufactured in the lab via electrospinning, but upon treatment with the coatings they lost much of their physical integrity. It follows that the nerve conduits manufactured in the lab consistently performed worse than those available on the market. Nerve autografts are currently the most widely used method of nerve repair, but they have limitations including limited supply of donor nerves, mismatch between nerve and graft dimensions, and neuroma. Nerve conduits are a promising alternative to grafts, and in conclusion the results of the research indicate that the addition of heparin and collagen coatings to nerve conduits will increase their efficacy, making them a more viable option for nerve repair.

Keywords

biomaterials, collagen, electrospinning, Schwann cells, neuroma, peripheral nervous system

Available for download on Thursday, April 28, 2022

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