Next Generation: Nanotube Scaffolds Reconnect Spinal Neurons

From the article on The Scientist by Ruth Williams:

A 3-D carbon nanotube mesh enables rat spinal tissue sections to reconnect in culture.

Sections of spinal tissue placed 1 to 2 millimeters apart in a culture dish can reconnect their neurons with the help of an intervening carbon nanotube matrix, according to a study published today (July 15) in Science Advances. The 3-D matrix is also well tolerated when inserted into rat brains, the authors reported.

“The important thing about the paper is that, for the first time, it shows that a three-dimensional scaffold of the carbon nanotubes can really improve the connection between two networks in the spinal cord . . . in comparison with 2-D nanotubes or other 3-D networks,” said neuroscientist Jürg Streit of the University of Bern, Switzerland, who was not involved in the study.

The future: If the carbon nanotube mesh were to be used clinically, it would need to be tolerated by the body. Ballerini and colleagues therefore tested the material in living rats. They implanted meshes into the cortices of adult rat brains and examined the animals four weeks later. Both neurons and microglia had grown into the mesh, said Ballerini, and tissue inflammation was minimal.

This was an important “first step to show that there was some biocompatibility,” said rehabilitation researcher and neuroscientist Candace Floyd of the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “But, really, they should have put it in the spinal cord . . . that would be the next step,” Floyd added.

 

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Image credit: 3D carbon nanotube mesh – JUMMI LAISHRAM

 

 

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