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Channelling Nerve Cells

Procedure could help repair spinal cord injuries

U of T researchers have designed a method of assisting nerve cell repair that could ultimately lead to treating severed spinal cords.

The technique involves imbedding a series of fibrous rods into a gel substance and then dissolving the rods, leaving a series of longitudinal channels. These channels are then modified with peptides, molecules that stimulate cell adhesion and migration. “When nerve cells are placed at the opening of the channel, the peptides act like breadcrumbs for them to follow,” says Molly Shiochet, lead author and professor of chemical engineering and applied chemistry at U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.

The procedure is part of an overall strategy to repair spinal cord injuries where the spine is severed, according to Shoichet. The research has yet to be tested in animal models or humans.

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