Wirelessly-Powered, Electrically Conductive Polymer Scaffold for Stem Cell-Enhanced Stroke Recovery

An astounding 800,000 strokes occur annually in the United States, creating an immense burden for stroke survivors, their caregivers, and the healthcare system with costs of more than $100 billion per year. Currently, no therapies exist to improve recovery. Stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising clinical therapy for stroke recovery. Many of stem cells’ effects are from factors they produce, but the optimal delivery conditions remain unknown. The George lab has developed electrically conductive polymers and demonstrated that electrically stimulating stem cells modifies their transcriptome and enhances their therapeutic effects. Presently, the method to provide electrical stimulation is limited by a tethered cannula system that prevents stimulation during normal animal activity.  This thwarts the evaluation of combined rehabilitation exercises and electrical stimulation to enhance the neural environment for repair. The Poon lab’s development of miniature wireless powered systems enables electrical stimulation without interference of the animal’s normal activity. 

We propose to utilize implantable stem cells, conductive polymer scaffolds, and rehabilitation made possible by wireless powered systems to create a more regenerative microenvironment for stroke repair. The goals of this project are to:

  1. Determine the optimal in-vitro stimulation patterns for modulating factor expression of stem cells.
  2. Achieve wireless in-vivo stimulation of animals during rehabilitative exercises to determine effect on stroke recovery.

The goals would have profound effects on stem cell biology and stroke therapeutics. Our implantable wirelessly powered system provides a unique platform to interact with the recovering brain during rehabilitation.  Understanding and reinforcing recovering circuits in the stroked brain provides a powerful tool to improve recovery and better understand neural repair.

Members of Research Team:

Prof. Paul George, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences with expertise in stroke recovery. His research focusses on improving stroke diagnostics as well as engineering new methods to enhance stroke recovery. 

Prof. Ada Poon, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering with expertise in wireless communication and integrated biomedical systems. Her research focuses on providing theoretical foundations and engineering platforms for realizing electronics that seamlessly integrate with the body.

Sruthi Santhanam, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Neurology and Neurological Sciences supervised by Prof. Paul George. Her research focuses on the development of conductive polymers and biomaterials for neural recovery. She will be involved in understanding stem cell’s fate upon electrical stimulation in-vitro and in-vivo in stroked rodent models.  

Cheng Chen is a Ph.D. Student at Prof. Ada Poon’s lab in Electrical Engineering. His research focuses on designing various modules for implantable biomedical integrated circuits and will design and implement the wireless, sensing and stimulatingdevices.

Kelly McConnell is a life science research professional at Prof. Paul George’s lab. Her research focusses on tissue engineering and understanding biomaterial’s interaction with stem cells. She will be involved in in-vivo experiments and analyzing the behavioral changes in rodent models.

Professor Ada Poon (Cheng’s Advisor)
Professor Paul George (Sruthi’s Advisor )

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