Effect of Electrical Stimulation on Neural Plasticity
Neural damage is among the leading causes of disability worldwide and, unlike many diseases, treatments for central nervous system do not have a clear clinical pathway and satisfactory outcomes. Applying therapeutic electrical stimulation (ES) by means of advanced biomaterials is considered to be an alternative solution.
The overarching goal of this project is to find out an effective therapeutic electrical stimulation for neural recovery. To pursue this goal, our central objective is to develop and characterize an in vitro ES platform to assess the effect of ES on neural cells plasticity.
The main focus of this project is to develop an in vitro electrical stimulation system to investigate therapeutic electrical stimulation for recovering neural function. In vitro platforms are excellent tools for exploring effective electrical stimulation parameters and investigating corresponding molecular mechanisms that will shed light on in vivo protocols.
The specific objectives of this project are:
Obj. 1. Development of optimized nanostructured electrodes. Here our main hypothesis is that nanostructured surfaces will provide improved electrochemical properties and robust performance as electrodes in vitro. Eventually, these surfaces might be good candidates to be used as bioelectrodes in neural stimulator and recording implants (future in vivo applications).
Obj. 2. Design and development of miniaturized electro-bioreactor. Here we will incorporate optimized electrodes within an in vitro device to create a platform for electrical stimulation of cells in culture.
Obj. 3. Calculation of the electrical field and validation of the device. We will use computational modelling and complementary experiments to narrow down functional parameters of electrical stimulation and design protocols for safe and effective electrical stimulation of the cells.
Obj. 4. Study the effect of electrical stimulation on neural plasticity in the stroke model. We will generate an in vitro model that mimics stroke condition, then will apply electrical stimulation using our in vitro platform. In this objective, we will test the protocols designed in Obj.3., and look for the relation(s) between stimulation parameters and pro-regenerative/pro-plasticity protein and mRNA expression.
Training and teaching activities: Currently, a PhD student and a research assistant are working in this project. We are open to host master students and guest visitors/interns for the experimental part of their academic assignments (e.g., TFM) in the context of this project.