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Promising new nanotechnology for spinal cord injury
Date:4/2/2008

g blocks of the gel -- to promote neuron growth, said co-author Samuel I. Stupp, Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, and Medicine and director of Northwesterns Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine. To actually see the regeneration of axons in the spinal cord after injury is a fascinating outcome.

The nano-engineered gel works in several ways to support the regeneration of spinal cord nerve fibers. In addition to reducing the formation of scar tissue, it also instructs the stem cells --which would normally form scar tissue -- to instead to produce a helpful new cell that makes myelin. Myelin is a substance that sheaths the axons of the spinal cord to permit the rapid transmission of nerve impulses.

The gel's scaffolding also supports the growth of the axons in two critical directions -- up the spinal cord to the brain (the sensory axons) and down to the legs (the motor axons.) "Not everybody realizes you have to grow the fibers up the spinal cord so you can feel where the floor is. If you can't feel where the floor is with your feet, you can't walk," Kessler said.

Now Northwestern researchers are working on developing the nano-engineered gel to be acceptable as a pharmaceutical for the Food & Drug Administration.

If the gel is approved for humans, a clinical trial could begin in several years.

"It's a long way from helping a rodent to walk again and helping a human being walk again," Kessler stressed again. "People should never lose sight of that. But this is still exciting because it gives us a new technology for treating spinal cord injury."


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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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