Healing a spinal cord injury requires healthy nerve cells. Current treatments involve grafting nerve cells from elsewhere on the patient, which could be painful, or a transplant which could be rejected. Instead, scientists are studying materials to get the patient’s nerves to regrow over the injury. One example is tiny threads called electrospun fibres. Recent research measured how fibre coatings help regrow cells. They measured regrowth of neurites: thin outgrowths of nerve cells for transmitting signals a long way, and used hydrophilic coatings, which attract water well, as cells had seemed to attach to these better. The image shows their results, with the cell’s nucleus in blue and the neurites in red. Surprisingly, neurites regrew fastest on the uncoated fibres (top left) and those coated in a molecule that helps cells attach (bottom left), not the hydrophilic coatings. Materials that work with cells could lead to huge advances in medicine.
Written by Esther Redhouse White
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