Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Reprogramming the nervous system?
Injured nerves do not regenerate easily, and the little healing that does occur is often inhibited by scar tissue formation. Samuel Stupp and John Kessler at Northwestern University in Chicago are using nanotechnology to overcome those hurdles.
They made tiny rod-like molecules called amphiphiles, each of which is capped by a cluster of amino acids known to spur the growth of neurons and prevent scar tissue formation. The molecules are designed to remain suspended in a few drops of liquid until they come in contact with living cells. At that point they spontaneously arrange themselves like spokes in a wheel, and then further assemble into spaghetti-like nanofibers a few thousandths the thickness of a human hair. The nerve-healing amino acids end up arranged nicely on the fibers' surface.
The nanofibers turn the liquid in which they are suspended into a therapeutic gel, which in experiments with cultured cells spurred neuron growth and inhibited scar formation. Moreover, rats and mice that got injections of the liquid a day after spinal cord injuries were more likely to recover the ability to walk than untreated animals.

It's growing new nerves. Reprogramming the system. I love how the only hurdle mentioned is the scientific one.