Tina – As JK Rowling said ‘Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve’. More than 5,000 cases of nerve injuries were reported in U.K. from 2009 to 2010. When a nerve is injured, it cuts off into two pieces leaving a gap between them. This gap can causes permanent loss of nerve function (i.e. lack of sensation and movement) if it is not bridged. Current treatment options including the sewing of the nerve ends together or a nerve graft sewn onto the nerve ends shows variable results.
In my research, I made a series of new nerve conduits from a unique chemically artificial biomaterial, which acts in harmony with human body to assist with nerve regeneration and repair. This conduit has been extensively studied in laboratory for its function. Furthermore, cellular therapies using stem cells along with this nerve conduit has shown promising outcome in laboratory. Stem cells can produce chemicals that make the nerves grow faster. By devoting 5 years of my life into the neural tissue engineering research, I hope, one day I (of course, with help of my colleagues!) will be able to alter the treatment option available for patients suffering from nerve injuries, focusing on elimination of current problems while shortening the surgical procedure and their recovery time.
Mariana – The first thing that struck me about Tina’s project was that her research was based not only on theoretical analysis but practical testing in order to develop an object that could be actively used to cure nerve trauma. I could not help being fascinated by the fact that Tina had spent several years developing this object, and achieved a successful working substance that can be used in the body and improve one’s quality of life. As physicality was such an important part of her project, I knew I should create a tridimensional object.
As my understanding of Tina’s research deepened, the next crucial point was how to communicate the strongest part of her development, the conduit. Tina has developed a conduit made out of biodegradable material that bridges the two trauma points of the damaged nerve. This conduit, acts like an electricity connector and enabler, so the choice to make use of light seemed natural. My goal was to communicate Tina’s conduit action in the body.
This piece shows the nerve coming alive, as the conduit stands in the center. Copper tubes represent the fascicles, where activity reappears slowly, as the conduit takes several weeks to fully reconnect the nerve. The conduit itself was designed on a nano scale, which enables the structure to have pores, which consequently adjust to the body. The RGB projections represent the colours Tina used for the markers to identify different neurons during her research.