Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Nervous Dancers

Nanofibre scaffolds bearing molecules that promote spinal cord injury repair

12 January 2022

Nervous Dancers

Transported to the site of a spinal injury, here artificial chemicals aim to heal damaged cells. But, like new arrivals at a school disco, the molecules fail to make an impact until they’re encouraged to move – jiving about on a scaffold of nanofibres, they match the rhythms of natural molecules that dance around receptors in the cells’ surface, triggering growth and repair. Fine-tuning these bioactive chemicals makes them more mobile and 'sociable' – in this stretch of mouse spine (highlighted in green and blue) their frolicking signals limit the growth of scar tissue and encourage new blood vessels to develop. Eventually, neuron cells grow new branches or axons (red). In the future, coaxing molecules to move to different biological rhythms may help to encourage repair, and, hopefully, keep human bodies moving.

Written by John Ankers

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