NIH awards $2 million grant to ‘decode’ the role of extracellular vesicles in nerve regeneration

Dr. Leyla Esfandiari, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Cincinnati received  the Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to explore the function of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in neuroregeneration.

The National Institutes of Health created MIRA grants to help researchers make important discoveries with more funding stability and flexibility. A total of over $2 million will be provided to Dr. Esfandiari to support her five-year study on the effect of endogenous electric fields (EFs) on EVs biogenesis and function in nervous system.

The endogenous bioelectric signal is crucial for regeneration, as EFs trigger a series of intricate signaling events between cells to promote tissue regeneration and restore function. It has been observed that EFs can enhance axonal regrowth in nerve injury, and bioelectric stimuli are crucial in inducing regeneration in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. However, the transduction mechanisms that allow cells to convert bioelectric signals into gene regulatory networks and transmit them to recipient cells via EVs has not been fully understood. This work specifically examines how endogenous EFs impact the exocytosis pathway; and investigates the regenerative role of EVs as cargos for transmitting the bioelectric signals between cells in the peripheral nervous system.

“To begin this work in vitro, we will take advantage of novel nanoelectronics developed in my lab to create a new biomimetic piezoelectric platform that mimics the natural electric fields that stimulate cells in response to mechanobiology,” she explained.

“Additionally, our newly patented Lab-on-a-Chip device will be used for the rapid purification and characterization of EVs from cell culture media and biofluids.”

The ultimate goal of Esfandiari’s research project is to develop a new therapy based on EV that can repair neurons in neurological disorders and injuries.

Nanoelectronics to study exosome circuitry and their role in neuroregeneration” NIH # 1R35GM150860-01.

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