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A Helping Strand
25 September 2015

A Helping Strand

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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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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