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Spine-saving Spheres

Neural stem cells in collagen scaffolds promote nerve growth after spinal injury

09 August 2020

Spine-saving Spheres

Cut your hair or scratch your skin and they regrow. Not so with nerves within your spine – they don't regrow after injury. However, neural stem cells have shown promise for treating spinal injuries in mouse models. Translating these results to humans is more challenging and it's thought that the material in which neural stem cells are grafted is important. Collagen scaffolds are already used to encourage regrowth of other tissues in humans and so researchers grafted neural stem cells into mice following spinal injury using a similar approach. They tested collagen scaffolds akin to those used to help regrow skin and nerves outside the spine. Both supported neural stem cells growing in number to form clusters called neurospheres, as captured using scanning electron microscopy (pictured). The neurospheres went on to form functioning nerves that restored movement in treated mice to levels equivalent to normal mice, bringing hope for treating human spinal injuries.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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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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